IRVINGTON, NJ — The township suffered its first homicide of 2016 on Friday, May 20.
Acting Essex County Prosecutor Carolyn A. Murray and Irvington Public Safety Director Tracy Bowers announced on Friday, May 20, that the Irvington Police Department and the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office Homicide-Major Crimes Task Force were in the early stages of investigating a fatal shooting.
“A male was fatally shot at approximately 3 p.m. in the 100 block of 19th Avenue,” said Murray on Friday, May 20. “The investigation is active and ongoing. Additional information will be released as it becomes available.”
According to Mayor Tony Vauss, any homicide is one homicide too many. He also said the fact it took almost six months for the township to register one is a vast improvement compared to prior years, wherein Irvington had a double-digit homicide rate halfway through the year. Vauss said, however, it still wasn’t good enough for him or the public safety team he’s assembled, including Bowers and Joseph Santiago, aide to Vauss and a former police director.
Vauss said the team’s success in combating crime may have played a part in the May 20 homicide. The Police Department and its new S.E.R.T. team have been working with the FBI and other law enforcement authorities to pursue criminals across its borders in nearby towns such as Hillside — and as far away as Perth Amboy — which might have touched off infighting among offenders whose illicit business dealings have been disrupted.
“The homicide occurred in an area where we recently intervened and shut down a business that was fronting for some illicit activities and we believe the cases might be related,” said Vauss on Friday, May 20. “Criminals and drug dealers don’t like it when we shut down their business in our town. That means people losing money. And because there’s no honor among thieves, they don’t have an honor system either, so if police break up a drug deal or, better yet, prevent it from happening in the first place, that means somebody owes somebody else some money. They can’t go to the cops, so they resort to threats, intimidation and violence among themselves.”
Vauss said he doesn’t approve of criminals settling their scores among themselves, usually with violence and gunplay, because that usually means putting innocent bystanders at risk. He said that means more work for Bowers, Santiago and the Irvington Police Department, in order to enforce the promise he made when sworn into office in July 2014 to make Irvington clean and safe.
“We still have work to do, but we’re committed to doing it,” said Vauss. “We’re serious when we talk about making Irvington clean and safe.”
With that in mind, on Sunday, May 29, Vauss introduced the Irvington Police Department’s new bicycle patrol. The mayor got the new community policing unit off to a good start by donning a uniform and riding out on patrol with Bowers, business Administrator Musa Malik, aid John Sowell and others on a tour of the community.
“Community policing is a philosophy that promotes organizational strategies that support the systematic use of partnerships and problem-solving techniques to proactively address the immediate conditions that give rise to public safety issues such as crime, social disorder and fear of crime,” said Vauss in a post on his Facebook page Saturday, May 28.
Hillside Mayor Angela Garretson commended her Irvington counterpart for taking decisive action to address areas in both towns.
“Mayor, you are truly setting the bar for how great it can be,” said Garretson on Friday, May 23. “Continue to innovate with your community engagements efforts. Colleagues are proud.”