I had not intended to write this week, and, as you will see below, this bulletin is relatively light on hard news. I feel it important, however, to report on a serious incident several days ago that has received a great deal of attention and is the subject of public concern.
As you may already know, this past Tuesday afternoon, a group of some thirty local teenagers were involved in a fight on Main Street. Several were injured – fortunately none seriously – and a store window was broken.
Our Police are currently working with School District officials to investigate this episode thoroughly and limit the likelihood of any recurrence. In addition, the Police Commissioner has restructured our downtown personnel resources to provide for additional walking patrols along the Main Street corridor.
Contrary to some media reports, our preliminary assessment suggests that neither School nor Police officials had any prior warning of this event, and that the Police responded to it swiftly and effectively. It is, nonetheless, a very serious matter when large groups of youngsters clash, particular when violence occurs in the heart of our central business district, where safety is of paramount importance.
Many friends and constituents have contacted me in recent days to ask what this bodes for our city. In response, I offer the following observations:
First, in order to promote a safe downtown, the City is in the midst of a multi-year fifteen-position expansion of our Police force. Seven officers have already been added, with the remainder slated for coming budget cycles. In addition, the Council has already approved the introduction in 2008 of a mobile police kiosk that can be situated at visible locations on or near Main Street. In short, we have worked and will continue to work to ensure that residents and visitors have a positive experience in downtown New Rochelle.
Second, all cities, including New Rochelle, must confront the challenges associated with at-risk youth by providing appropriate support services, intervention, suppression of gang activity, and opportunities for positive personal growth. Our City Manager and Superintendent of Schools co-signed a letter to the Journal News, published on Saturday, October 20th, that outlines in some detail the outstanding, coordinated work already underway in New Rochelle. Rather than quote from this document, I offer it to you in its entirety HERE.
Third, this incident must be viewed in an accurate and meaningful context. I am concerned that many media accounts have had a sensationalist quality not justified by the facts and lacking in perspective. Such unfair reports are themselves harmful to our community and generate unjustified alarm. I recognize that quoting statistics in response to dramatic events often sounds hollow, but this is the only means of assessing the overall efficacy of our public safety and youth service programs – and the statistics are convincingly positive. New Rochelle’s crime rate is currently near a forty-year low. In addition, among the fifty-one cities nationwide of comparable size, New Rochelle’s crime rate is the fourth lowest. We can acknowledge the gravity of this incident, while also honestly pointing out its atypical nature and affirming the social health and security of our city as a whole.
Lastly, on a personal note, my confidence in our community is a strong as it has ever been. If you visit our downtown any day or night, as Catie and I often do, you will find families living, playing, dining, and enjoying each other’s company in a safe environment that is becoming progressively more vibrant. The same can be said of our public schools, which are deservedly lauded for their quality, diversity, and breadth – and where we will be proud to send our sons, Jeremy and Owen.
Like every sizable community, New Rochelle faces social and human challenges that require thoughtful, comprehensive, ongoing action. No doubt, we can approach these challenges more effectively and should always be open to the possibility or need for improvement. I believe, however, that our record (and by “our” I refer not simply to the City government, but to the large array of organizations and individuals engaged in this effort) is one of which to be proud and one that augurs well for our future.
Again, the remainder of this month’s email bulletin is fairly light, but I hope you agree that it was appropriate for me to focus extra attention on a subject that is on many minds.