The crime issues in Brick Township’s Maple Leaf Park development are “so insidious, and so deep-rooted, that we can’t just pull up the plants – we have to dig out the roots,” said Councilwoman Marianna Pontoriero at a township council meeting Tuesday, addressing residents of the development who went to the meeting for a status update on a promised anti-crime initiative.
“We’re still in the research process,” said Pontoriero, who has spearheaded the effort to develop new policies and programs to turn the tide against crime in Maple Leaf Park and similar developments in town. The push to improve the quality of life for residents got underway last fall, after a resident confronted the council and pleaded for heightened enforcement of laws and the township code.
Maple Leaf Park is located off Herbertsville Road in the northern portion of the township. It is a condominium complex, but is heavily occupied by renters.
Pontoriero and other council members have been holding committee meetings for months where ordinances and other policies are being drafted as part of what was described Tuesday night as a large, multi-pronged effort which will be launched to combat crime and drugs in Maple Leaf Park – and elsewhere in Brick – from all sides.
Though officials did not want to tip their hand too early on the specifics of which measures were under consideration, Pontoriero said ordinances covering air pollution, noise pollution and various other issues would be addressed. Brick officials are also scheduled to meet with Ocean County Sheriff Michael Mastronardy to see if a partnership could be forged with county law enforcement to combat crime in the area.
In the council’s committee on land use, new ordinances that will govern rental units in town are being drafted, said Councilman Jim Fozman.
“We have to make sure everything is proper before going forward,” Fozman said. “We have not dropped it, we’re on top of it.”
Late last year, it emerged that one of the measures under consideration is a Crime-Free Multi-Housing program, under which residents of rental units can be evicted quickly if they are found to be involved in criminal activity.
James Cancel, the Maple Leaf Park resident who initiated the discussion with an impassioned speech before the council in October, urged the governing body to act quickly, saying the development has been “trending toward perpetual slum status for several years.”
But elected officials said developing a comprehensive plan, rather than a “band aid,” takes time.
Another end from which the battle against crime in Maple Leaf Park will be fought is helping the community’s youth get on the right path early in life. To that end, Councilwoman Andrea Zapcic said, a mentoring program will be started in the community this year that will match up youngsters with Brick Police Athletic League members. The group will undertake four community service projects each year in Maple Leaf Park and more around town, focusing on improving and beautifying the community, Zapcic said. The program will be funded through a grant at no cost to taxpayers, she added.
“Even though it may seem slow to the people that are in the community waiting for help, it is being investigated by every means possible,” said Pontoriero. “That’s how we can fix the problem. We’re working on it from a bunch of different angles so we can find a solution that will make it better long-term, not just a band aid.”