If embattled City of Newburgh leaders are really serious about improving the city’s image, it does not take a rocket scientist to figure out where to begin.
City leaders have come under intense public scrutiny in recent weeks after a series of ongoing problems finally came to a head (see series of articles here). The Newburgh News, LLC first broke a story detailing how city leaders were hiding crime from the public. Shortly after city leaders declared they would begin to “control the narrative,” press releases mysteriously stopped coming out of City Hall despite a shooting and several stabbings during the same time period. After breaking the story, Orange County District Attorney David Hoovler also reported that city officials asked him to help cover up crime from the public eye.
The controversy has not been exclusive only to crime. City leaders stopped issuing press releases about any fire department issues, including building fires or even mere fire prevention efforts, after the fatal Lander Street fire last year. Public backlash at City Council meetings resulted in ongoing censorship of citizens attempting to redress their government.
The City Council and City Manager have obstinately remained defiant and continue pointing fingers at everyone else, including the public, all media outlets, the District Attorney, former City Managers, surrounding towns, the firefighters’ union, social media, and a local blog. It would take quite the vastly coordinated conspiracy for this many people to all be wrong. Perhaps the problem lies within the city government itself.
City officials are clearly going about things the wrong way. Where should the City Council and City Manager start to improve the city’s image?
First, they must begin issuing press releases again about crime and fires in the city. These topics are not necessarily negative news as city officials portray them to be, which is their first mistake.
Showing the public that police are taking active strives to reduce crime would portray a great image for the City of Newburgh. The public should be aware of the crimes and the subsequent aggressive stance that police officers are taking to stop it. Every time an arrest is made, one less criminal is infecting the streets with more cancerous crimes.
If city officials were smart, they would follow in the footsteps of District Attorney Hoovler. When he issues press releases about major crimes, he often concludes them with stern messages declaring that crime will not be tolerated under his watch.
City officials should also doing this. The next time there is a shooting or stabbing, perhaps city leaders could issue a press release of this sort: “Violent crimes will not be tolerated. If you commit a violent crime in the City of Newburgh, we will take swift action to remove you from society.”
Not only would this tactic improve the city’s image, it would also make citizens feel a little more safe. It would also let potential visitors know that police are aggressively pursuing crime and could entice more people to come into the city to conduct business.
Instead, city officials choose to hide it from the public eye. This makes citizens suspicious about how many other violent crimes occur that the public does not know about. As a result, people are skeptical about visiting the City of Newburgh. The end result is completely counterproductive from the end goal city leaders are trying to achieve.
The same goes with fires. If the public sees a large contingency of firefighters battling fires, the public knows they are safe because the fire department is protecting them. This too would improve the city’s image. Instead, city leaders hide two-alarm and three-alarm fires from the public, leaving many to wonder what else is being hidden and exactly how safe the city is.
Of course, city leaders should also highlight the other work done by its hard-working police officers and firefighters. Police community relations efforts, fire prevention details, and many more stories should also continue being posted to the city’s social media accounts and issued via press releases.
City leaders are completely backwards with the approach they are taking. They must resume issuing press releases about violent crimes and fires, but this time approach it from a different angle. When an arrest is made, highlight the stance that crime will not be tolerated and one more criminal is off the street. When a fire occurs, praise the firefighters for saving lives or saving the building from burning down. Public relations goes a long way. This isn’t rocket science.