NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ—The headquarters of the city’s housing authority was struck by gunfire on August 31, but that agency’s Board of Commissioners refused to acknowledge that fact during their September 28 meeting.
“We can’t comment on any ongoing matters of that type because they’re active investigations going on, and cases that the police have brought,” said NBHA Executive Director John Clarke, fielding a question about the damage to the building nearly a month later.
“I can say that we are pleased that the police are moving forward with all of the activities that they are doing and that we’re hopeful that the outcome will be that the people–who were involved in something off-site–are taken and justice is done,” continued Clarke.
We asked if there was any increase in violence in the Schwarz-Robeson neighborhood, the biggest public housing complex in the city.
“That would be a question for the police. That would be a police question,” insisted Clarke.
New Brunswick Today had already asked the New Brunswick Police Department (NBPD) whether there was an increase in gun violence, or violence in general, in the month of August.
“These questions are arbitrary in nature and do not reference a specific incident… I am not prepared to issue a statement for you in regards to generalities,” responded NBPD Captain JT Miller.
“If there is a specific incident in which you wish to have more information please advise, and if I am able to comment without jeopardizing the integrity or confidentiality of an Investigation I will do so.”
There was no one galvanizing incident but serious shootings in back-to-back weeks had raised alarm bells among the community.
“It happened during the day?” asked NBHA Vice Chair Anthony Giorgianni, seeming to be learning about the August 31 shooting incident for the first time.
“I’m not, you know, defending myself here, or the board, or anybody else, or the Housing Authority. But at the same token, if it happens across the street… Right, we don’t want to see anybody hurt here.”
“We try to take care of what’s going on here, but that’s across the street at Aldi’s,” concluded Giorgianni.
The incident ultimately led to the shooting victims crashing into a traffic light before running into St. Peter’s University Hospital, according to a police report posted on the city’s website.
Another board member interjected to warn about what he saw as the potential for sharing information about crimes to have a negative effect on the community.
Dale Caldwell, an NBHA board member who also serves on the city’s Board of Education, went so far as to say that publicizing information about the recent shooting was “not necessarily a social good.”
“Obviously, I’ve wrote this book on influence,” said Caldwell. “If you study, what happens is there’s a lot of duplication,” said Caldwell, citing “suicides” as a example.
“Publicizing is not necessarily a public good. If you go around saying there’s a gunshot here, there’s a gunshot here, that actually can increase the violence.”
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.