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Dover Mayor Confronts Rising Concerns: Addressing Homelessness and Public Drinking

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DOVER — During the Mayor and Council meeting held on Tuesday, February 13, numerous residents voiced their apprehensions regarding the presence of homeless individuals and public consumption of alcohol.

Mayor James Dodd took the opportunity to confront the issue head-on. Below is an excerpt from his closing speech, directed towards the concerned citizens of Dover and local business owners:

I hear a lot of concerning statements made here tonight. And I hope that all of you came here tonight to appeal to your state and federal legislators as well. The problem we’re faced with in Dover is not only at a local level but also at a much higher level.

I came to town meetings for approximately the last year. And I didn’t hear any of these complaints come to the previous administration. However, the previous administration caused them.

In 2019, you didn’t have any of these concerns in our community. You may have had some minor concerns about alcoholism, as we know it is an illness, or homelessness, as we know that is an illness. But it certainly didn’t rise to this level.

This was allowed to occur. And now we’re faced with the difficulty of cleaning it up. The young girl who spoke at that microphone tonight broke my heart. For that young girl to have to go to work in fear every day is completely unacceptable in any community.

And I’m appalled by it. I’m appalled by her fear of going to work and walking on the streets in fear of retaliation. We live in a changed society and must be aware of it. While I understand the comments that we must have compassion, we also must have enforcement.

We live by the rule of law. It’s not legal to urinate in front of someone’s business. It’s not legal to defecate in someone’s business. And so, while we have to have compassion, We also have to have enforcement in our community.

I met this past week with the building manager of Mill Pond Towers who has been faced. Jose, you’ve commented on that before. Who is faced with exactly what you said? And she’s pleading for help because it’s affecting the quality of life for the seniors that live in that building.

Not everyone is homeless. Yes, we have a homeless problem in our community, and it’s something that we need to work on. I agree with that. But we also have people disregard our law and don’t care because they know they can get away with it.

In certain circumstances, our police departments’ hands are tied. But that doesn’t mean we don’t have laws. We still have to live by the rule of law. We have a situation in our community that has risen to a level.

Where people do not feel safe walking on our streets at night, it was heard here tonight. Comments were made here tonight. People don’t feel safe in their businesses. I mean, you spoke about it here tonight.

And that’s unfair to you. Our business owners should have the support of our local government. And that’s what we intend to do. We intend to work with our police department. Our chief walked into the room here tonight.

He’s here. We plan to work with our police department to work with our community in whatever capacity of enforcement we can use by law. But we can’t turn a cheek to it. We all have to be cognizant of it.

We all must be aware of what’s happening in our community. An unfortunate circumstance happened with one of our councilmen. Maybe he didn’t use his best judgment. But the frustration in our community is not only with him.

It’s with a lot of people in this town. And rightfully so. This is a quality-of-life issue. This has happened in the last four years. This was allowed to escalate from the directive of the governing body.

And so now it’s this governing body’s opportunity and position to work on fixing it. I love your idea of a workshop. We’ll work on it. I want your phone number before you leave here tonight. I’ve said it before, and I’ll repeat it.

You cannot fix a problem until you get to the root of the cause. If the root of the cause is homelessness, we address it. If the root of the cause is alcoholism, we address it. If the root of the cause is just pure disregard for the law, we address it.

We identify the community components that have created this and work on fixing it. I’m not here tonight to point fingers. I’m here tonight to say goodbye. This did not exist in 2019. This has occurred in the last four years.

I challenged this board and our police department to work with us on coming up with solutions that will work for all of us. I challenged myself on how we come up with programs and how to deal with it.

We can no longer walk around with blinders because it’s happening right before us. People are urinating. I’m pretty sure there’s a law for that.

I’m learning more about the law with the bail reform that I’m learning about now. In certain circumstances, the police hands are tied. But I certainly know for a fact that it’s not legal to urinate or defecate in public, in a public place.

And so there are the types of things we must deal with. It’s not legal to ransack someone’s vehicle. We had someone behind Table 42 going through employees’ vehicles, ransacking vehicles. That I know for a fact is not legal.

There are certain things that we have to address. And I’m happy to say tonight that, listen, I understand, and I’m all about compassion. But I also understand that when somebody’s a repeat offender and has complete disregard for the law, we should enforce the law.

I’m proud to say tonight that we have a new public defender. I’m proud to say that we now have a judge in this town, a bilingual female, who understands the concerns of our community. And she’s going to work with us to address those concerns.

While we face these challenges, that’s exactly what they are. We’re not alone in Dover. This has happened throughout our country. And people need to wake up. Hold your state and your federal officials accountable.

 Because they’re the ones that are allowing this to occur, people want to come to Dover. But I’ll tell you what, it’s a different clientele now. I echo your comments that Fercho Barrios of businesses don’t want to come to Dover now.

People don’t want to support our community. A business owner sits on the council and faces it daily. A few business owners have this in their comments and have online experience.

I talk to business owners every day, and their frustration is taken. But we have to develop a system that works, that we all can work with. So, I’m committed to improving this town regardless of what it takes.

Our police chief is here tonight, and our police department heard the comments. Our meetings are live-streamed now, so our public heard the comments from the public that they’re scared to walk down Blackwell Street at night.

And that perception has to change. It has to change as us, as a community. It has to change within our police department. And it has to change for the people that are causing this problem. And so, while I thank all of you for coming here tonight, I only wish you had started this two or three years ago.

Maybe we wouldn’t have inherited the problems we inherited at this level. This is extreme in our community now. This is not going to get fixed overnight. And while I say to you the patience that you need patience while we accomplish it, it is an understatement.

It’s an understatement, but we’re committed. We have good members on this board. We have committed, dedicated members. And when you think about it, it’s a sacrifice for the pay they receive and what they have to put up with.

Thank you. So I ask for your cooperation in public, for your patience, and for you to be part of the solution. I look forward to working with this gentleman and would say your name, but I know I’ll butcher it, so I won’t even try; I’m sorry.

However, I look forward to working with you and my team to see what we can do to address the concerns in our community. It’s heartbreaking to sit here as a town mayor and hear these comments.

So I take it personally, and I commit to this community that we will do our very best to accomplish what we need to. So, thank you all for coming out tonight. I truly appreciate it.

And please be patient with us while we come up with solutions. Thank you.

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Frank Cahill
Frank Cahillhttps://www.frankcahill.com
Publisher of Parsippany Focus since 1989 and Morris Focus since January 1, 2019, both covering a wide range of events. Mr. Cahill serves as the Executive Board Member of the Parsippany Area Chamber of Commerce, Lt. Governor of Division 9 Kiwanis Club of NJ, and Chairman of the Parsippany-Troy Hills Economic Development Advisory Board. Owner of the Morris now app serving small business in Morris County.
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