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Monday, April 21, 2008

More accountability needed to shore up efficiency of state-funded crime programs

State senators today stressed the importance of the state's anti-crime initiatives while keeping those programs funded, even as Gov. Jon S. Corzine proposes a budget that calls for the same funding the various programs received last year, despite uncontrollable cost increases.

Sen. Brian Sarlo, D-Hudson, said he recognized the state's financial problems and their effect on the budget, but called for additional efforts in getting state dollars to existing programs, while creating new programs.

"I think we may be able to do more with our limited state dollars, by developing our own gang prevention curriculum," Sen. Sarlo said.

Senator Shirley Turner stressed the importance of proper funding to the anti-crime initiatives in the urban areas of New Jersey, while getting the most out of every dollar that comes to the cities of the Garden State to address gang and drug-fueled crime problems.

"In our state's urban centers, local law enforcement is struggling to keep up pace with the rate of violent crime being perpetrated by individuals and gangs," said Sen. Turner, D-Mercer, following the budget hearing for the Department of Law and Public Safety. "Gangs, guns, and drugs rile the streets, and nearly every major prosecution in our urban courtrooms can be linked back to one of those three factors."

Sen. Sarlo also lauded the state's anti-gang programs and legislative efforts in curbing gang crime and making it more difficult for the state's gang members, but railed against flat funding for state anti-crime initiatives.

"We've added gang criminality offenses, to ensure harsher sentencing for gang crime offenders," said Sen. Sarlo. "We've cut down on the number of guns which are in our communities illegally."

While state legislators call for more dollars and better efficiency in making good use of those dollars in anti-gang and anti-crime programs, the lesson of Barry Colicelli in Trenton should not be forgotten.

That man ended up taking hundreds of thousands of dollars from Trenton, without either accounting for any of his efforts or leaving some permanent system in place so others could carry on what should have been important work.

The numerous problems of this state's urban areas provide a fertile breeding ground for cronyism, but not accountability, or oversight.

These state officials could create a better environment for both of those important things by attaching state dollars and anti-crime grants to certain control measures, like monthly reports or some sort of committee to watch over whatever programs receive state dollars.

That could go far in preventing both city and state taxpayers from paying thousands of dollars to people who don't have the proper credentials, and fail to document exactly what they are doing to address crime in cities like Trenton, or Newark.

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