Monmouth County Freeholder Director Thomas A. Arnone told a meeting of the Asbury Park/Neptune NAACP on Saturday that the solution to violence in Asbury Park lies with the city’s leadership.
“The municipal government and the school board must come together to solve community problems, ” Arnone said, “The solution starts with leadership and there is a disconnect in Asbury Park.”
Arnone noted that Monmouth County already is making a significant investment in law enforcement in Asbury Park through the Sheriff’s Office and the Prosecutor’s Office. “If we have to increase the Sheriff’s Department’s presence, we will.”
“Money is not the problem, leadership is the problem,” Arnone said as he drew a contrast between Asbury Park and Neptune Township. “In Neptune they are working together and they are reaching out to the county for support.” Arnone specifically cited Neptune Mayor Eric Houghtaling, Committeeman Randy Bishop and School Superintendent David Mooij for their cooperation with each other and their ongoing communication with county officials. “I’m on the phone with those guys several times a month. There has not been a major dialogue with Asbury Park.”
Adrienne Sanders, President of the Asbury Park/Neptune NAACP, said, “The children of Asbury Park are caught up in a political struggle. Asbury Park will continue to be a cesspool that does not produce a quality public education until its leaders put the children before their egos.” Sanders pledged to bring the leaders together. Arnone pledged the county’s cooperation, saying that Sheriff Shaun Golden will meet with the group , “but be prepared to hear the truth,” Arnone warned.
Asbury Park resident Linda Johnson said the community cannot wait for Asbury Park’s leaders to get their acts together. Johnson wants an increased police presence on the west side the city now. “There is a perception that no one cares, that no one is watching,” Johnson said, “when no one is watching the kids in the gangs will do whatever they want to do.”
Johnson said that there is an excess police presence on the boardwalk that should be transferred to foot patrols on the west side. She asked Arnone to hire former Asbury Park Police Director Louis Jordan, who she referred to as a “gang intelligence officer,” as a county law enforcement official. “The leadership now does not know what’s going on in the gangs,” Johnson said, “Jordan knows the gangs.”
Sgt. Michael Barnes of the Asbury Park Police Department’s Gang Unit raised the possibility of an “open gym” at Asbury Park High School to provide kids more recreation and a place to go after school. Barnes said the department is short 10 officers and needs additional funding.