By Matt Arco

New Jersey will distribute $7 million in federal aid to purchase equipment for police departments meant to combat gun violence, Gov. Phil Murphy announced Thursday.

The money will be used to buy gunshot detection equipment, video cameras, and automatic license plate readers, which officials say aid police in quickly responding to shootings. Gun violence soared across the United States and in New Jersey in 2020 as the coronavirus pandemic washed over the country.

The Democratic governor also announced $8.2 million in state grants will be awarded to 25 non-profit organizations across New Jersey for community-based violence intervention programming.

“The funding announced today will provide resources to both law enforcement agencies and community partners, equipping them with much-needed resources as we continue to fight the epidemic of gun violence,” Murphy said during an event outside the police station in Paterson.

As New Jersey continues to fight back the latest wave of the pandemic, it also needs to “combat the epidemic of gun violence,” the governor added.

There were 2,123 firearm arrests across the state last year, Murphy said. Among them, 41% involved suspects who had felony convictions, 38% had been previously arrested for a gun violation, and 12% of the suspects arrested had been previously involved in a shooting, Murphy said.

“Gun violence is a public health crisis,” Paterson Mayor Andre Sayegh said, adding 419 guns were confiscated in the city over the past two years.

“The reality is that since the start of COVID gun violence is going up in this country and NJ is not immune from this,” Acting Attorney General Andrew Bruck said. “We have a moral obligation to confront this problem head on with all of the resources that we have.”

In 2020, 218 people in New Jersey died in shootings, an increase of 45% from 2019, according to State Police tracking. Another 1,052 people were wounded, up 25%.

That came during a year of tumult, as the pandemic raged, a contentious presidential campaign was underway and people took to the streets to rally for racial justice following the May 25 murder of George Floyd in police custody in Minneapolis. Nationally, more than 19,000 lost their lives in shootings, according to the Gun Violence Archive, in what is likely the largest death toll in at least two decades.

According to the governor’s office, the following 25 non-profit groups spread across 15 municipalities will share the $8.2 million in state grants:

Juvenile Education and Awareness Project, Passaic ($47,087)
Reimagining Justice, Inc., Paterson ($500,000)
Newark Community Street Team, Inc., Newark ($499,996)
Big Brothers Big Sisters of Coastal & Northern NJ, Asbury Park ($93,416)
Mighty Writers, Camden ($500,000)
Advocacy Foundation, Inc., Atlantic County ($365,758)
HMH Jersey Shore University Medical Center, Neptune ($499,957)
Hope and Future, Inc., West New York ($250,000)
James R Halsey Foundation of the Arts, Trenton ($50,000)
After School All Stars New Jersey, Newark ($118,950)
Salvation and Social Justice, Trenton ($500,000)
Center For Family Services, Inc., Camden ($245,008)
United Community Corporation, Newark ($500,000)
Life Worth Living, Inc., Bridgeton ($430,885)
Elizabeth Youth Theatre Ensemble, Elizabeth ($380,240)
Prevention Education, Inc. T/A PEI Kids, Lawrence ($348,990)
United Advocacy Group, Inc., Bridgeton ($261,310)
The Alcove Center for Grieving Children and Families, Inc., Galloway ($52,545)
Anti-Violence Coalition of Hudson County, Jersey City ($500,000)
Nicholas Luciano Safe Way Out A NJ Nonprofit, Mount Laurel ($200,000)
Inside Outside Circle Foundation, Newark ($181,153)
The HUBB Arts & Trauma Center (FP YouthOutCry Foundation, Inc.), Newark ($487,343)
Hear My Cries A NJ Nonprofit Organization, Newark ($498,000)
REFAL, INC., Newark ($500,000)
Weequahic Park Environmental Authority, Newark ($227,000)

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