PATERSON – New Jersey officials announced Thursday they will spend more than $15 million in state and federal funds to address rising gun violence, including $8.2 million for community groups and the rest for high-tech police technology.

Gov. Phil Murphy said the money includes $7 million in federal funds for buying law-enforcement equipment such as gunshot detection technology, video cameras and a system of automatic license plate readers.

“These technologies can quickly and accurately fill critical gaps,” Murphy said. “We know that time lost in either responding to or investigating a shooting cannot be reclaimed.”

Murphy said there were 1,112 shootings last year in New Jersey, in which 248 people died. There were 2,123 gun-related arrests in 2021 – and of those arrested, 41% had past felony convictions, 38% had past gun arrests and 12% had been involved in past shootings.

Acting Attorney General Andrew Bruck said the vast majority of gun violence is driven by a small number of people and so a targeted enforcement strategy is needed.

“And that we don’t repeat the same mistakes that we made during earlier eras, when in response to a rise in violent crime, we locked up too many people for low-level, nonviolent offenses,” Bruck said.

Sen. Michael Testa, R-Cumberland, said the technology is needed in part because Murphy has been releasing inmates from state prison early in a bid to tamp down the spread of COVID-19 among prisoners and correctional officers.

"Gov. Murphy just let 40% of the prisoners out of our jails, and now he’s spending millions so police can track the people he released who are out on the streets committing crimes again,” Testa said. “The governor’s progressive logic is dizzying.”

Murphy announced $8.2 million in state grants will be split among 25 groups for community-based violence intervention programs. It includes a half-million dollars for the Paterson group Reimagining Justice, co-founded by Liza Chowdhury.

“With this funding, we will bring more mental health services, try to link our loved ones to emergency resources, have more community events to build collective efficacy and provide more meaningful case management services to help community members in need,” said Chowdhury, a former probation officer who also teaches at Borough of Manhattan Community College.

Here's the full list of recipients:

1. Juvenile Education and Awareness Project, Passaic ($47,087)
2. Reimagining Justice, Inc., Paterson ($500,000)
3. Newark Community Street Team, Inc., Newark ($499,996)
4. Big Brothers Big Sisters of Coastal & Northern NJ, Asbury Park ($93,416)
5. Mighty Writers, Camden ($500,000)
6. Advocacy Foundation, Inc., Atlantic County ($365,758)
7. HMH Jersey Shore University Medical Center, Neptune ($499,957)
8. Hope and Future, Inc., West New York ($250,000)
9. James R Halsey Foundation of the Arts, Trenton ($50,000)
10. After School All Stars New Jersey, Newark ($118,950)
11. Salvation and Social Justice, Trenton ($500,000)
12. Center For Family Services, Inc., Camden ($245,008)
13. United Community Corporation, Newark ($500,000)
14. Life Worth Living, Inc., Bridgeton ($430,885)
15. Elizabeth Youth Theatre Ensemble, Elizabeth ($380,240)
16. Prevention Education, Inc. T/A PEI Kids, Lawrence ($348,990)
17. United Advocacy Group, Inc., Bridgeton ($261,310)
18. The Alcove Center for Grieving Children and Families, Inc., Galloway ($52,545)
19. Anti-Violence Coalition of Hudson County, Jersey City ($500,000)
20. Nicholas Luciano Safe Way Out A NJ Nonprofit, Mount Laurel ($200,000)
21. Inside Outside Circle Foundation, Newark ($181,153)
22. The HUBB Arts & Trauma Center (FP YouthOutCry Foundation, Inc.), Newark ($487,343)
23. Hear My Cries A NJ Nonprofit Organization, Newark ($498,000)
24. REFAL, INC., Newark ($500,000)
25. Weequahic Park Environmental Authority, Newark ($227,000)

The announcement was made in Paterson, where Mayor Andre Sayegh noted 18-year-old honor student Robert Cuadra was killed Jan. 19 by a stray bullet bringing groceries to his grandmother.

“We’ll do everything within our power to save lives, so that mothers, grandmothers, fathers, brothers and sisters don’t have to mourn anymore,” Sayegh said.

U.S. Rep. Bill Pascrell Jr., a former Paterson mayor, called for the arrest of Cuadra’s killer, who remains at large.

“By the weekend, we should have them in hand – no later,” Pascrell said. “There is no more important issue than we get these thugs off the street.”

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By night’s end, the three suspects in Cuadra’s death had been arrested and charged with murder. They are Kahaz Heron, 18, of Clifton, Jahed Jones, 19, of Paterson and Jaquin Williams, 19, of Paterson.

Michael Symons is State House bureau chief for New Jersey 101.5. Contact him at michael.symons@townsquaremedia.com.

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