In the Press

An Open Letter to Providence mayoral candidates (Op-Ed, Providence Journal)

Paolino Properties’ Managing Partner, Joseph R. Paolino, Jr., was featured in a recent op-ed published in The Providence Journal about the importance of public safety to the candidates for Providence mayor.

Read the story below:

Joseph R. Paolino Jr. is managing partner of Paolino Properties, served as mayor of Providence from 1984-1991 and was director of the Rhode Island Department of Economic Development from 1991-1994.

Like me, you all love Providence and are passionate about making the future better for everyone who lives, works, and visits here. It is why you’re all running for mayor. As a former mayor myself, I know that keeping our city safe is always a top priority. And, Providence has a real problem right now that needs to be addressed.

Crime is surging across the nation. And one of the reasons why crime has gotten out of control in Providence is due to personnel. I am disappointed that our elected officials have not made recruitment a priority.

It boils down to funding. Slashing police budgets prevents hiring new police officers. As President Biden said in his State of the Union address, “the answer is not to defund the police. The answer is to fund the police.” Provide the resources and training needed to keep our communities safe. I am happy to see President Biden’s new budget include $30 billion to hire more officers.

My suggestion to our next mayor is to never stop recruiting and running police academies so there is never a staffing shortage. Some political leaders have different views on how to handle this. Recently, one said Providence can’t “hire its way out of violent crime.” I will concede that this is a complex problem and hiring alone won’t fix it, but it’s an important start.

Others have said we need to hire more police officers, increase their funding, provide more training, create more summer jobs, extend the hours of recreational centers, and put a greater emphasis on community policing. I agree that a single approach won’t work — we need everybody to work together.

Police need to have trust in an administration and know that we all have their backs. They shouldn’t be used as political scapegoats so that a candidate gets a quick newspaper headline. Addressing police staffing will help to mitigate quality of life crimes, such as ATVs being driven through our streets, creating a public nuisance. These crimes incite bigger violent crimes, and every city should be addressing them.

New York City Mayor Eric Adams, a former police captain himself, recognizes crime is a major problem and has promised to increase police staffing to cut down on quality of life crimes and ultimately gun violence. Some municipalities are looking at drones to help supplement their police force. Providence should explore similar solutions.

It doesn’t stop there. Providence also needs more funding for social services including mental health and drug addiction treatment. I’m deeply concerned about the legalization of marijuana, which is a gateway drug, and that the lost revenue we are seeing go to neighboring states is superseding the health of our residents.

As I’ve always said, Providence is a wonderful city. But, after a tumultuous couple of years we have an uncertain future. As mayor, you’ll have your work cut out for you, but you have the ability to make public safety a top priority. People often ask me why I speak out on issues while out of politics. My answer is simple: I love this city and still have great hopes for it. No one person can repair the damage. We must all do it together.

Let’s make Providence America’s best city.

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