A crowd of over 100 gathered at Jersey City’s Dr. Ercel F. Webb Park to call for a safer environment for children in light of a fatal shooting near a school last week.
After victim, Terrel Smith, 27, was shot and killed on Van Horne Street, mere blocks away from school Public School No. 22, parents, teachers, and organized leaders requested that the town of Jersey City have a higher police presence for students during prime hours of the day.
“We need police presence in the morning as students are entering, at 3 p.m. when the students are being dismissed and at 6 p.m. when after school programs dismiss and the schools are locking their doors. We need this done for the rest of the school year and every school year,” said Crystal Torres, a parent council member at the school.
Other parent council members, as well as Principal Oscar Velez, who helped organize the event, spoke openly on how essential public safety is for the children, parents, and teachers.
“We believe that it is imperative that the children feel safe when they come and go between their home and the school. When teachers are coming to work, the last things on their mind should be their safety,” said Velez.
“We have a challenging job and we’re investing in the most important resource that our society has, which are our children.”
Velez emphasized how city officials could easily help stop or control reoccurring shootings around the city.
At the rally, along with anti-violence signs held by students, were petitions held by teachers. In compliance with the petition’s request for more police presence, Mayor Steven Fulop affirmed his commitment.
“You have our commitment. We will increase our police presence as you ask. You will see them when you want them, but I want to prefect by one thing—I want to say, let’s not kid ourselves that you can police yourselves to a solution,” said Fulop, who suggested community outreach and awareness will also help solve safety issues.
Ward F Councilman Jermaine Robinson reiterated Fulop’s initiative by requesting vigilance, rather than vigilantes.
“We are asking each and everyone of you, along with ourselves to be vigilant and representing our community when you see something you must say something because I want our kids to be lawyers, doctors, astronauts, but most of all I want our kids to be alive to see the future,” said Robinson.
“I would really like to say ‘we as a community must come and work together’ to make this happen because we are one Jersey City.”