Asbury Park has had 43 shootings this year and 283 drug arrests from January through September. Last month there were three murders in the seaside community.
“The police force is doing everything it can and will do everything it can. We are do everything we can to protect the people of this city. But what is it that makes somebody pick up a gun and say this is the way I’m going to deal with this?” asked Asbury Park Deputy Mayor John Loffredo. “It’s going to take the community to say we have had enough and not accept it in their own community.”
Critics argue Asbury Park is a divided community with stark contrasts — an up-and-coming East Side with thriving stores, restaurants and a busy boardwalk and a struggling, crime-ridden West Side that’s overlooked by developers and city government.
“Well that’s really not true. We put over $11 million into the West Side, not just infrastructure improvements, it’s housing improvements,” Loffredo said. “The fact that money has come in on the East Side, yes the ocean is there, that’s why it happened, the boardwalk is there, that’s why it happened.”
Scott Asalone owns Words! Bookstore on Cookman Avenue and says the city’s crime statistics are affecting his business.
“After a while people stop coming downtown when it’s very safe on Cookman Avenue and it’s safe on Main Street,” Asalone said. “Are there other parts of the city that we need to work on? Absolutely. But right now to quote on quote abandon Asbury Park? It’s a foolish thing to do.”
Around the block is DJ’s Delights Deli and Restaurant. Owner DJ Presto opened his business in Asbury Park three years ago.
“It’s definitely unsafe. It’s scary,” Presto said. “People get scared just walking around.”
Presto says he’s all too familiar with crime in the Monmouth County community. “Actually I’ve been broken into twice,” he said.
Despite both break-ins, Presto says he’s not moving his thriving business. Instead he installed security cameras. Lofferdo says the city’s police force has started foot patrols on the West Side. Asbury Park’s Chief of Police was not available for an interview.
Lofferdo insists the city government and police will continue doing everything they can to keep the community safe but says that he can’t stress enough that the residents need to do their part by turning in criminals even if those criminals are relatives and friends.
Lauren Wanko reports from Asbury Park.