Buddy Cianci and Jorge Elorza each claimed on Friday that they'd do a better job in reducing crime and improving public safety in Providence.
During a mid-morning news conference at Billy Taylor Park in the city's Mount Hope section, Cianci said he would find savings in Providence's budget to pay for an additional police cadet class in fiscal 2016, to bolster 53 current trainees. "As mayor, the first thing I’m going to do is order an audit of the city budget to identify waste, fraud and abuse," Cianci said. "Now those are all words, but I’ve been there before, done it and bought the T-shirt. There is waste, fraud and abuse in city government. The savings we achieve will be directed toward police as first priority. That’s how you budget things – you look at the priority of what we need now."
While overall crime in Providence has decreased in recent years, Cianci said many residents feel unsafe and that the perception is what counts. Police staffing has also declined and highly publicized bursts of violence -- many related to city nightclubs -- have fanned concerns about public safety.
Cianci called Elorza's plan to use federal grants to hire more police unrealistic, due to the drying up of federal money.
Elorza's campaign responded around the time when Cianci's news conference was ending, emailing reporters a statement ripping the former mayor's record on police and public safety.
According to Elorza's campaign, violence crime increased in Providence during Cianci's last six years in office as it was declining in some other Northeast cities. Elorza spokesman David Ortiz said, “Buddy Cianci’s empty promises around election time about reducing crime need to be evaluated against his failed record on public safety as Mayor of Providence. The Cianci record is characterized by rising crime, failure to implement community policing, constant political interference in the Providence Police Department and widespread corruption.”
During a WPRI-Providence Journal mayoral debate on Tuesday, Elorza acknowledged it could take eight years to reach his goal of raising the number of police officers to 490. On RIPR's Political Roundtable this week, he vowed, "I'm going to do everything that I need to do and everything that I have to do to make sure that our residents feel safe," including emphasizing community policing, encouraging more police to live in Providence, and aggressively pursue enforcement of violations at city nightclubs.
Cianci was joined by dozens of supporters during his event, including some residents of Mount Hope. One community activist expressed alarm about what he called the random shootings in the neighborhood that leave young residents at risk.
Providence voters pick between Cianci, Elorza, and Republican Daniel Harrop on November 4.