Freeholder Bill O’Dea (D-2) and Jersey City Ward B Councilwoman Mira Prinz-Arey organized a meeting with various local leaders last night to address residents’ concerns about public safety measures in the wake of the tragic death of Carolina Cano.
Other officials in attendance included Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop, Prosecutor Esther Suarez, Jersey City Police Chief Michael Kelly, County Executive Tom DeGise and Sheriff Frank Schillari.
They emphasized to the roughly 150 residents in attendance at the Gallo Center in Lincoln Park, where Cano’s body was found in a lake, that they will be taking preventative action.
In a joint effort between the Jersey City Police Department, the Hudson County Sheriff’s Office and residents, additional CCTV security cameras will be added to the park, as well as floodlights at different locations and the establishment of neighborhood watches.
Nevertheless, some residents expressed dismay over the fact that there was some delay in authorities releasing the details surrounding Cano’s death, which occurred on March 24th and was not ruled a homicide until March 28th.
In response, some of the officials on hand said that when a body is found, there isn’t always immediate physical evidence of how the person died and that the circumstances around the death have to be double and triple checked.
“Obviously, we all had the information immediately, but we were under the impression that it was a suicide, and only later did we get the information that it was a homicide, and potentially other components to it and so it was a kind of a delicate balance once we know it’s a homicide and once we start down the road of leads that we feel are promising, it’s a very, very delicate balance on how quickly and what information we put out there,” said Fulop said.
“At the end of the day … we really feel that this park is a safe place. That we would be doing a disservice to all of you if you we put something up there that we thought we resolved it, and we put something up there that was kind of alarmist in some ways that made you feel that this was an unsafe place ultimately. When it [the murder case] goes through the trial, I think you’ll understand a little a bit more about how and why we made some of the decisions that we made on what we do and what we don’t distribute.”
There are 37 CCTV security cameras installed in Lincoln Park, and in an interview after the event, Suarez said they played a role in the arrest of the suspect Jorge Rios.
“That and good ol’ fashion police and detective work,” Suarez said when asked about the arrest of Rios, who has since been revealed to be a Honduran national in the country illegally.
At one point when the officials were taking questions from the residents, one resident asked whether there is another or better way of alerting residents in the neighborhood should another unfortunate tragedy such as a murder happen again.
“We read nj.com, and we keep up with the news but we hadn’t heard anything about it and wanted to know if there’s a better way to alert the neighborhood without compromising the investigation [so that] I don’t put myself in danger because he [Rios] hadn’t been arrested yet and I had no idea,” said the local resident.
In response, Suarez suggested that residents shouldn’t be reading local outlets such a nj.com to get their information.
“I’m never one to tell you to go to either nj.com or any of those papers for actual news. There it goes, I said it.”
Instead, Suarez noted that residents should be checking with more “local” sources.
“I think you need to do some sort of social media, and I would tell you if you can, go to the Twitter feed for the County and the Prosecutor’s Office for Jersey City. I think that’s where you are going to get really your best information.”
But the resident said she doesn’t have a Twitter or Facebook account.
“I can understand being cautious about that, but I think for actual news that’s where you are going to get actual news,” Suarez said.
The resident expressed surprise, asking Suarez if she was saying that she should get actual news on social media.
“I’m telling you where to go. I’m telling you go to the Jersey City PD and the Prosecutor’s Office website. Our Twitter feed, go on our Twitter feed, you are going to know exactly what is going on in terms of any crimes. I would tell you that if you’re interested in Jersey City, I’d tell you the city, the JCPD and the County, that’s how you get more localized news, that’s my opinion, maybe some of the people here might have different opinions,” said Suarez.
In a separate interview after the meeting, O’Dea said he liked many of the suggestions he heard from residents that could be implemented to increase public safety in the county’s public parks so that another similar tragedy doesn’t happen again.
“I spoke with folks already about where we are going to look to set up in areas in the park that may be a little remote where if you just don’t have a phone for whatever reason you press a button [on a kiosk] that emits a blue light and it automatically notifies the police, hopefully both the Jersey City Police Department and the Hudson County Sheriff’s Office, and I spoke to the Parks Director [Sammy Ocasio] that maybe if you hit that light the camera will focus right away,” said O’Dea.
The hour-and-a-half meeting streamed live on our Facebook page and can be viewed below: