Despite recent shootings, EO celebrates crime reduction

East Orange Mayor Lester E. Taylor III rode his bike throughout the city to visit various community events taking place on National Night Out. Here, he is joined by Otis Story, second from right, the new chief executive officer of East Orange General Hospital.
East Orange Mayor Lester E. Taylor III rode his bike throughout the city to visit various community events taking place on National Night Out. Here, he is joined by Otis Story, second from right, the new chief executive officer of East Orange General Hospital.

EAST ORANGE, NJ — The East Orange National Night Out celebration took place against the backdrop of a multiple shootings and a homicide in the city that has earned recognition for the historic reductions in crime, which began on the watch of former Mayor Robert Bowser and former police Director Jose Cordero.

The bad patch began Monday, Feb. 29, when acting Essex County Prosecutor Carolyn A. Murray and East Orange Public Safety Director Sheilah Coley announced the East Orange Police Department and the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office Homicide/Major Crimes Task Force were investigating the murder of Tushon D. Jones, 32, of East Orange.

Two months later, on Friday, April 22, Murray and Coley announced the East Orange Police Department and Essex County Prosecutor’s Office were investigating the fatal shooting of Isaiah T. Peterson, 27, of South Orange.

Then, on Saturday, June 25, Murray and Coley announced authorities were investigating the fatal shooting of a 4-year-old boy by a 5-year-old boy at a residence in the 100 block of Norman Street in East Orange.

Finally, on Monday, Aug. 1, Murray and Coley announced the East Orange Police Department and Essex County Prosecutor’s Office Homicide/Major Crimes Task Force were investigating the fatal shooting of a 28-year-old Montclair man.

Despite these shootings, East Orange celebrated National Night Out to emphasize the connection local police officers have with the community and the strength and security they provide. The city organized a motorcade composed of East Orange police officers, firefighters, emergency service providers, first responders and others who traveled around the city, making stops at the various individual neighborhood cookouts, block parties and festive events taking place. That  included the 3rd Ward, where City Council President Ted Green and his governing body partner, Quilla Talmadge, again opened up the 3rd Ward Community Information Center to use as a base for their ward’s ninth annual celebration on Rhode Island Avenue.

“Tonight wasn’t just about us being out here eating a hot dog or hamburger,” said Green on Tuesday, Aug. 2. “People look forward to National Night Out, not just because we make it fun. We provide them with information and the city and services for them as residents of the city that are available to them. We had Legal Shield telling people where to call in case of emergency; what to do if and when you ever get stopped or pulled over by police; mortgage foreclosure; and a lot of other information. We had close to 250 people from the community come out to take a bite out of crime.”

Fortunately, Green said, despite the recent spate of high-profile incidents the city has endured, crime is down and public safety is on the rise in East Orange. But he acknowledged one incident is one incident too many, saying he’s pleased to have men and women working to protect and serve him and everybody else in the city each day.

“I’ve just got to follow the footsteps of my family and I want to do what’s best for the community,” said Michael Williams on Tuesday, Aug. 2, at the National Night Out event. An Irvington resident who works at the L. Epstein Hardware Store on Main Street in Orange alongside local businessman and attorney Jeff Feld,  Williams said he aspires to become a police officer so he can keep the city safe.

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