In response to the murder that occurred Tuesday night on the corner of Mission and Bloomfield Ave., residents, police and elected officials gathered for a meeting last night at Fire Headquarters, voicing their concerns about the fatal shooting of Ibn Futrell, a former Montclair High School student in his mid-20s, and proposing solutions to crime in the community.
Fourth Ward Councilor Renee Baskerville hosted the meeting, along with Thomas Reynolds, president of the Montclair chapter of the NAACP and Montclair Police Chief David Sabagh.
The room was filled to capacity with over 100 residents present. Baskerville opened by saying that the community is “not just dealing with this atrocity…but with the frequent acts of violence” that have occurred in that area, one of the highest-crime areas in Montclair. Police are still investigating the crime and no suspects have been identified.
Sabagh said that they could not speak directly about the open investigation, but a “tremendous amount of information has come from leads and witnesses.”
“Our objective is to limit the amount of crime using the resources available,” said Sabagh. “We prioritize based on events and crime statistics.” As a result of budget cuts, he said the department was forced to downsize operations. According to Sabagh, a “community policing project”, smaller in scope and more mobile, would be implemented and is currently being discussed with Marc Dashield, the town manager.
The community policing project would “allow us to address the particular issue of that particular neighborhood until it’s fixed, and move onto another neighborhood that may request that comprehensive type of policing,” said Sabagh.
Throughout the two-hour meeting, residents repeatedly voiced concerns over inadequate street lighting, few security cameras and the lack of police presence in the area where the murder took place. Several claimed to have made repeated calls to PSE&G to fix broken streetlights and got no response. Dashield said he would contact public service and meet with the police department to resolve the lighting issues.
A resident who owns property on the corner of Mission St. commented on signs of “obvious drug activity” occurring in two local buildings and urged police to investigate.
Mark Clayton, a local resident, suggested organizing a neighborhood watch that would gather on a monthly basis to aid in crime prevention. “We can’t look at the police and say it’s their fault…it’s our responsibility,” he said.
Sabagh said the police force would do its best to meet with residents and set up watch groups.
Residents proposed additional anti-gang and drug resistance education programs in schools. Several also felt there was a lack of community centers and programs available to local youth.
“These children can’t afford a community center, they can’t afford to go to the Y,” said Dawn Muhammad, who has been a resident of Montclair for over 52 years. “It could very well have been my son that was shot. Let’s stop skipping over the issue. It’s the lights, but it’s a dark cloud over our community, too. I’m down for doing whatever is necessary, by any means necessary to open up the doors for our children to a better way of life than what they got right now.”
“There needs to be more community action in Montclair from the police department, from the residents, from the churches… We all need to expect more from each other,” Reynolds said. “I understand that there are budget cuts, I understand that there are a lot of things he [Sabagh] has to deal with…but the loss of a human, there’s no amount of budget that can fill that loss.”
He added, “Hopefully from tonight we can create a dialogue, find creative ways to bring back community policing and find creative ways to make sure these streets are safe.”