Good afternoon, Chairman Spearman and members of the committee. Thank you for the opportunity to testify today.
I’m Marleina Ubel, a policy analyst at New Jersey Policy Perspective (NJPP), a nonpartisan think tank focused on advancing economic, social, and racial justice for New Jersey residents.
NJPP is in full support of community-based alternatives to policing in New Jersey. We want to thank the Chairman for his sponsorship of this bill and for having it heard before the committee today.
The current model of policing has demonstrated numerous shortcomings, particularly in communities hit hardest by over-policing. People of color, individuals experiencing mental health crises, and socioeconomically disadvantaged neighborhoods bear the brunt of the harms and negative outcomes associated with current one-size-fits all approach to public safety. It is clear that our communities deserve better.
By investing in initiatives such as community mediation programs, violence interruption programs, restorative justice practices, and community-led crisis response teams, we can build trust, enhance public safety, and foster stronger connections between public systems and the communities they serve. These alternative approaches prioritize de-escalation, community engagement, and a holistic understanding of public safety that encompasses the social determinants of crime.
Moreover, these alternatives have proven to be effective in other jurisdictions across the country. Evidence shows that community-based initiatives can reduce violence and enhance public trust. By directing resources towards these programs, New Jersey has an opportunity to lead the way in establishing a model that centers the needs and voices of our communities.
In addition to promoting safety and community well-being, investing in community-based alternatives to policing can also yield substantial cost savings. Traditional law enforcement consumes a significant portion of local budgets, often at the expense of essential social services such as extracurricular programming, mental health, and housing. By allocating funds towards community-based programs, we can address the root causes of crime, reduce recidivism, and create a more balanced and equitable allocation of resources that benefits everyone in our state. For example, an evaluation of the CAHOOTS program in Oregon estimated that they have saved the taxpayers in their city an average of $8.5 million every year.
I urge the committee to vote yes in support of the exploration, development, and implementation of these alternatives, working collaboratively with community leaders, advocates, and experts to ensure that the voices and experiences of those most impacted are central to the process.
Thank you for your attention to this critical issue. I am available to provide further information or answer any questions you may have.