Mayor Charles Washington Jr. wanted to make it clear that he did not form his task force just because of violence in the city.
He joined with the other members of his task force Monday to address concerns of residents and explain what tools the task force has made available to them
“These are the resources that I believe can help impact quality of life,” he said. “There doesn’t have to be violence for you to need a job… Lack of jobs is part of the violence that’s going on in our nation and social instability in our communities.”
The mayor hopes that one of the task force’s major contributors — Mid-Atlantic States Career and Educational Center — can help residents in that area. Mid-Atlantic’s Executive Director Glen Donelson was on the symposium’s panel.
He said Mid-Atlantic has placed more 2,600 people in jobs since the center began, and they also give training in jobs skills, as well as in preparing a resume. And while jobs in the city itself might be limited, Mid-Atlantic also provides a shuttle to the Purelad Industrial Complex, in Logan Township, for all three shifts.
Donelson said transporting Salem City students to Salem Community College could be next when someone in the audience suggested it.
“It’s something we’ll definitely look into, and it could be possible,” he said.
Washington said they are also trying to promote Salem as a place for businesses to open up shop.
“That’s one of our assignments,” he said of the task force. “We have to look at how were presenting ourselves. It’s very difficult to promote the community when there’s a negative stigma placed on it. … But we’ll still go to bat for this city. We have good people, hard workers here. We need those opportunities.”
The mayor is working with the Salem City Police Department and Salem County Prosecutor’s Office to ensure that public safety remains a top priority.
Salem City Police Chief John Pelura said at any one time, there might only be three city police officers on duty. However, the prosecutor’s office provide their own units to help city police on patrol.
He also urged residents to provide police with the support they need to be successful.
“Be a witness or report something that goes on,” he said. “We need your support and your involvement.”
The city is in the process of hiring more officers, according to Washington, but they haven’t found the right candidates yet.
“We’ve had a couple applicants in that had potential,” he said. “It’s a difficult process.”
When a resident asked what they could do to help, city councilman Horace Johnson said they are prepared to provide support if people want to take the clean up of the city into their own hands.
“You can always contact us if you’re interested in cleaning up an area,” he said. “We can get you the supplies. … it’s going to be a community effort.”
He said the city has adopt-a-block and adopt-a-lot programs that can be set up with a just a phone call. Johnson also said city council is also working on putting together a trailer filled with lawn equipment that people can reserve and use to take care of vacant lots on their blocks.
Even with these resources available to the city, Washington said it was up to the residents to do their part in taking advantage of them. He said there have been programs in the past that died off from lack of support.
“A lot of the problems aren’t going to be solved by these people on stage,” he said. “We have to be met half way. We expect that you represent yourself so we can address what it is you have a problem with.”