FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE | April 7, 2011
South Orange, NJ - Alex Torpey, a South Orange resident, small business owner and candidate for Village President, released a series of statements today about safety concerns in the Township of South Orange Village including recent ‘flash mobs,’ tainted drinking water and armed robberies.
“People move out to this community in large part because they are able to keep a close distance to New York City and to other resources while living in a diverse, safe and enriching environment," said Torpey. "The issue I've been hearing most frequently in my conversations with community members is that business owners, residents and students who contribute to this town are feeling as though their safety is not as guaranteed as they once thought."
South Orange has recently been experiencing large groups of young people in the Village’s downtown, a gathering commonly referred to as 'flash mobs' that result in roughly 300 to 500 young people from the surrounding area loitering and causing disturbances downtown. A February flash mob resulted in the assault of a store owner and multiple arrests. Four other police departments responded mutual aid into the town to disperse the crowd.
“When we talk about reducing property taxes, we need to talk about potential homeowners and business owners having confidence in our downtown. Right now there is a lot of news being reported about public safety problems, and sparse, if any, public response from Village Hall," Torpey said. "A lot of what people are seeing right now when they look into South Orange are the problems, they don’t see the incredible neighborhood watch response, the successful police investigations or other information about residents getting involved. This isn’t just about solving the problem, but also communicating both to our community and outside of it, that we have a handle on this and we are going to support our Police Department to beat it.”
Poor water quality has also surfaced as a recent issue in South Orange Village as potentially unsafe levels of tetrachloroethylene, a volatile organic compound (VOC), were discovered over a month ago. The town’s water supply was contracted out to the East Orange Water Commission as a cost saving measure, a decision made over investing back in South Orange’s municipal-owned water treatment facilities.
“This should be one more lesson that contracting out services to a third party rarely results in good service," Torpey said. "We used to have control over our water supply and we're now forced to deal with the major consequences of turning over that control to an entity that is not ultimately accountable to our local government and to our community."
“Contamination of a water supply is a serious issue, and we need a Village President who will be more proactive about making sure that our residents get timely information about these safety and health threats," Torpey said. Citing his emergency management background as a way to approach things differently, Torpey continued, "The town has been aware of heightened levels of tetrachloroethylene, generally known for its use in dry cleaning fluids, in our drinking water since the last non-compliance was issued to the EOWC in February. Residents should have been made aware of this concern immediately using tools like reverse 911 and mass social media, email and text message alerts."
A number of armed robberies have also been reported in the South Orange area, one as recently as last Thursday night around Wilden Place. Both students and residents of South Orange have been the victims of these crimes.
"Many people don't feel safe walking around South Orange at night anymore, and to hear that about my hometown is incredibly frustrating,” Torpey said. “We need to put our foot down and let people know that our police will indeed find and arrest people who perpetrate these crimes through measures like targeted police patrols and expanded neighborhood watch programs. People need to know that if they commit a crime like that in South Orange they are going to get caught and they are going to face severe legal consequences."
Contact: 973 287 4159 or [email protected]
Alex Torpey is running for election on May 10th, in the nonpartisan election of Village President in South Orange, Essex County, New Jersey.
Statement from the Village regarding drinking water: http://southorange.org/notices.asp?guid=5590886d
Data Sheet from the US Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry on tetrachloroethylene: http://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/toxfaqs/tf.asp?id=264&tid=48
Neighborhood Watch Programs Take Root Across Town Lines, from South Orange Patch: http://southorange.patch.com/articles/neighborhood-watch-programs-take-root-across-town-lines
Neighborhood Watch Information: http://southorange.org/Police/CommRelations/neighborhoodWatch.asp