NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ—A wide variety of crime statistics in New Brunswick have seen a precipitious rise over recent months, most notably those for gun crimes. In response to a police-involved shooting, the second in six months, the city’s six-term mayor James Cahill shockingly told the Home News Tribune that the increase in violence “corresponds directly with the inflammatory and anti-police rhetoric of [Tormel] Pittman and his cohorts.”
Ever since Barry Deloatch was killed by city police under suspicious circumstances the evening of September 22, Pittman, age 35 has led demonstrations against the police department and against violence in general, including one on September 28 where he was arrested and charged with obstructing the flow of traffic on a city street.
Video shot by NewBrunswickToday.com shows that Pittman was on the sidewalk leading a peaceful protest with a megaphone when several police vans roll up, and over two dozen officers arrest Pittman and another demonstrator.
Pittman has called for the resignation of Mayor Cahill, due to his response to the killing of Barry Deloatch.
Cahill continued to let loose on Pittman, the first time he’s done so publicly, to the Home News’ Bob Makin:
“Notwithstanding Pittman’s efforts to hinder our Police Department’s sworn obligation to serve and protect, we will remain vigilant in protecting the lives and property of our residents from those intent on committing crime. Pittman’s time would be better served encouraging those individuals prone to violence to put down and turn in their weapons, rather than calling for unrest in our city’s neighborhoods.”
Cahill’s observations are more than a little off considering Pittman has consistently included anti-violence messages in protests he led, saying many times that there are “good cops” on the New Brunswick force and that violence is wrong no matter who is the offending party.
This is not the first time Cahill has sharply and irrationally criticized a city activist since the Deloatch killing exacerbated already-strained tensions between the police department and the community at-large.
David Harris, who has operated the Greater New Brunswick Daycare Center for 41 years was interviewed by Patch.com’s Joe Malinconico in about the sharp increase in gun violence. He told the reporter, “The crime has its roots in the failures in our education system and the crime has its roots in the failures to address our poverty issue… The city of New Brunswick has not responded to these needs.”
In response, Cahill said that Harris, a fixture in the community for decades, “must be from outside New Brunswick or have a biased agenda.”
While Cahill’s defensive rhetoric is nothing new, his comments blaming Pittman for the violence acknowledge a problem he had previously dismissed as solved.
In his dig at Mr. Harris, he used the term “short-term increase” in reference to November’s 475% increase in gun crimes over November 2010.
In the same article, Cahill’s police director Tony Caputo said there had been a “dramatic decrease” in violence in December 2011, while Cahill credited the police department with stopping the crime wave.
“I’m pleased that as a result of new initiatives implemented by the police department that these acts of violence have all but stopped,” the Mayor told Malinconico in the story published January 2.
A grand jury will hear the case of the killing of Deloatch by officer Brad Berdel, though not as quickly as originally promised by the county’s prosecutor Bruce Kaplan. Last week, another police-involved shooting took place just one block away from the backyard on Throop Avenue where Deloatch was killed.
Victor Rodriguez, age 19, may have been paralyzed when undercover “plain-clothes” officers Drew Weiss and Christopher Bornheimer shot him multiple times Tuesday evening at the intersection of Remsen Avenue and Seaman Street. Rodriguez’s family told Makin that he was carrying a starter’s pistol the day he was shot and that he fired two blanks to ward off two unknown assailants before he was approached by police.
It still not clear how many shots were fired by the officers, though the family say Victor was shot five times.
The family said that the officers did not identify themselves as police and shot Rodriguez at least once after he had been shot down to the ground.
Meanwhile, violence continues to plague the city. A quiet streak in December ended two days after Christmas when a woman allegedly shot a man in a domestic dispute at the Brunswick Arms apartment building. Two weeks later, on January 9, Oswaldo Lozaro, a 21-year-old city resident was shot dead on Louis Street.
The next morning, a dead body was found in Pittman Park, just a few hundred feet from the site where Berdel shot Barry Deloatch. The dead man was identified as Eugene Lockhart, a 26-year-old New Brunswick resident.
Charlie is the founder and editor of New Brunswick Today, and the winner of the Awbrey Award for Community-Oriented Local Journalism. He is a proud Rutgers University journalism graduate, a community organizer, and a former independent candidate for mayor of New Brunswick.