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NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ—City police are investigating another shooting that occurred overnight in New Brunswick, but they did not publicize the matter, ask for the public’s help, or report it to state officials.
According to New Brunswick Police Department (NBPD) Lt. Amish Shah, a 26-year-old city man was the victim in this latest shooting, which occurred at approximately 1:49 a.m on August 4, at the corner of Lee Avenue and Seaman Street.
“No arrests have been made and the investigation is ongoing,” said Shah, filling in for the usual public information officer, Captain JT Miller.
The victim, whose name has not been released, has “non-life-threatening injuries,” according to Shah. It’s unknown if the victim was the intended target.
Not only has the department been keeping quiet about many of the shooting incidents in the city, they apparently failed to share information with the state’s Regional Operations Information Center (ROIC), which has been trying to track information on shooting since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.
At 11:11am, more than nine hours after the shooting occurred, the NJ State Police Colonel Patrick Callahan said the state’s Office of Emergency Management, which manages the ROIC, was unaware of it.
“That was not reported to the ROIC,” Callahan confirmed. “I have nothing reported by New Brunswick PD.”
“There is a request [for departments] to report [shootings] to the ROIC in a timely manner however not mandatory at this time,” said Callahan.
At the taped-off scene, several cones marked the locations of at least eighteen shell casings, bullets, or other items of interest to the NBPD.
A nearby resident described that she heard a discharge of about a dozen shots: “I’m living in a very dangerous street.”
Several residents said they fear the street and mind their business as they live in an area well-known for violence and the illegal drug trade.
Just last year on Christmas Eve, another man was fatally wounded by a gunshot one block away on Lee Avenue near Handy Street.
A couple blocks in the other direction, a man died in March after taking his own life with a sharp weapon in the backyard of a home.
This has been at least the sixth shooting reported this year in the city, and NBPD officials have refused to give a total number of shootings in previous years.
In at least four cases authorities did not release information about the shootings until after New Brunswick Today asked about the incidents.
More than seven months into the year, NBPD has only issued one press release so far, and that was for a shooting incident that had already been publicized by the Rutgers University Police Department, which strives to alert the community about serious crimes in parts of the city near campus.
But, for those living in the heart of the city, on streets like Lee Avenue, no such transparency exists, even when it comes to shootings or other serious crimes that injure others.
Colonel Callahan has previously given out statistics on statewide shootings during Governor Phil Murphy’s briefings on the state’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
But the revelation that New Brunswick has not been reporting its shootings to the ROIC casts doubt on those numbers.
For his part, Callahan says his team “usually” finds out about the shootings eventually, even when departments don’t report them.
“The ROIC staff usually finds out via other sources if not directly reported although there can be a time lag,” Callahan said.
New Jersey and Michigan are the only two states that have its State Police oversee their Office of Emergency Management.
The morning after the New Brunswick shooting, Governor Murphy was asked about the recent increases in gun violence happening in New York City, and if he was concerned about the violence spreading to New Jersey.
“We’re not immune to it, so this is not just a New York or a Chicago phenomenon. We’ve seen it in communities around our state,” said Murphy.
“It is an American concern right now, and it’s probably the result of a whole series of cocktails, mixes, that are coming together at the same time,” added the Governor. “It is our hope and aspiration that we get back and get our arms around this sooner than later.
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 and a community organizer, and an independent candidate for Mayor of New Brunswick.