"There's free stuff," she said, "but it's more important that kids like me can relax and enjoy ourselves, because it can get a little bit dangerous around here."
Tuesday, the annual National Night Out event was celebrated across the United States. Events throughout Jersey City took place at Pershing Field and Hamilton, Arlington, and Audubon parks.
But there was an added significance to the day. Two major police busts netted dozens of alleged criminals. (See sidebar).
One probe was dubbed "Operation McGruff: First Bite." In that sweep, 153 arrests were made and 70 pounds of marijuana and 2,500 bags of heroin were recovered.
The other bust led to the recovery of 9,000 bags of heroin and five arrests.
Every year on Aug. 2, communities hold block parties, festivals, and other events to bring neighbors together and increase the awareness of drug prevention and neighborhood watch programs.
Many Jersey City residents also sat on their front stoops and turned on their house lights at 9 p.m. to acknowledge the occasion.Corzine appears
At 6:30 p.m. Gov. Jon Corzine appeared at Audubon Park, between Bergen Avenue and Kennedy Boulevard.
Mayor Jerramiah Healy, Police Chief Thomas Comey, and City Council members Michael Sottolano, Viola Richardson, Willie Flood, and Bill Gaughan met with Corzine at the park and spoke with residents.
Corzine's appearance there was one of three in New Jersey that he was scheduled to make for National Night Out.
"I am going to three different places just to say I support these efforts so that the community can pull together to prevent crime, drug abuse, and drug distribution," said Corzine. "We are all in this together."
At the park, Corzine and Healy handed out awards to local residents Jimmy DuPree, Bill Gent, and Tony Sica for their excellent community service.
Healy said, "We have these nights out to show the lawbreakers that there are a lot more good people in Jersey City and elsewhere than people out there breaking the law."
Richardson, a former Jersey City police officer, also emphasized the importance of National Night Out, but said more crime prevention efforts are needed.
"One night of being safe is a nice gesture, but this is something that needs to happen every day, 365 days a year," said Richardson, "so that there is a real relationship between community and police. That is the only way crime will be brought closer to control."
Richardson also said she spoke to Comey about having the police work with residents to implement more block watches across the city.
Local organizations such as the Urban League of Hudson County were also represented in Audubon Park.
"Flash" Gordon, a Jersey City Department of Recreation employee who had organized basketball games that took place on the courts of Audubon Park, gave his feedback at the event.
"We're assisting the Police Department in maintaining the kids with activities and basketball games," he said. "We should have this more than once a year. Once a week, get the kids and adults to enjoy the park on a nice night out. This increases the [community] presence in the park."
Gordon remarked that the park has been safer in recent years, as he remembered when it used to be a hangout for dangerous types of people. Ricardo Kaulessar can be reached at email@example.com Sidebar 158 arrests and 11,500 bags of heroin!
One of the themes of National Night Out on Tuesday was a police presence, and two police busts that took place earlier that day were fine examples.
The first one, known as Operation McGruff: First Bite, was a six-day operation that netted 153 drug offenders and wanted felons.
A Jersey City Police Department press release stated that, under the leadership of Capt. Ken Teschlog, Noel Diaz, 25, of the Bronx in New York, was charged with possession of heroin and the intent to distribute in a school zone. Diaz was found to possess 2,500 bags of heroin and 70 pounds of marijuana for distribution in Jersey City.
One of the city's most wanted felons, Leroy Williams, 34, of Bergen Avenue, was also arrested in the effort. Williams was sought for allegedly committing a stabbing in May this year.
Beginning July 27 and ending Aug. 1, 2006 was Phase II of the First Bite effort, which was the establishment of Zero-Tolerance Zones in heavy drug traffic corridors.
"I want residents to know that this is not a one-shot deal.
First Bite is just that - a first bite with many more bites to come," Police Chief Thomas Comey said.
Participating agencies included a combination of JCPD Gang and Narcotics officers, along with members of the Hudson County Prosecutor's Office, State Police, and State Department of Parole.
A Hudson County Prosecutor's Office press release stated that Khalil Salley, Age 42, of Randolph Avenue; Patrick Taliaferro, 32, of Orient Avenue; Edward Wall, 36, of Ocean Avenue; Shakenya Daniella Williams, 27, of Bergen Avenue, and Wayne Neal, 33, of Scotch Plains were all charged with drug possession and distribution.
This was part of an effort by the Hudson County Prosecutor's Office and Jersey City Police to investigate heroin trafficking, which led to seizing at least 9,000 bags of heroin with a street value of more than $100,000. - RK