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Central Jersey News from the Times of Trenton

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    Trenton Kennel Club's show, sanctioned by the American Kennel Club, has been held continuously since 1929

    With about 2,000 exhibitors showing approximately 180 breeds, the 2018 Trenton Kennel Club Show comes to Mercer County Park in West Windsor Sunday and Monday, May 6 and 7.

    Aside from watching dogs compete in seven divisions, the public can "see a variety of purebred dogs that might be appropriate for their families," said Deanna Lonabaugh, an East Windsor resident who is in her 27th year as the show's chairwoman.

    "You can speak to breeders, meet breeds you'll never see on the street," Lonabaugh said.

    Great danes, for example, "you don't see many of those on the street," said Lonabaugh. Or Russian wolfhounds. Or mastiffs.

    Trenton Kennel Club's show, sanctioned by the American Kennel Club, has been held continuously since 1929. It normally attracts about 5,000 visitors.

    On each day, there will be judging in seven divisions: sporting, hound, working, terriers, toys, non-sporting and herding.

    The Trenton Kennel Club, organized in 1911, has about 40 members, mostly living in Central Jersey.

    Lonabaugh, a Trenton Kennel Club member since 1982, has four black miniature poodles, all females. She recalled her father breeding chow chows.

    "I've had dogs all of my life," said Lonabaugh, 75. "They were always purebred." She and her husband, Wayne, are both retired teachers in the Hamilton school district.

    The show runs 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday, May 6, and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday, May 7. Mercer County Park is on Old Trenton Road. Admission is $5 each, with children 12-years-old and younger admitted free.

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    The partners in this mural project are coming together to produce a bountiful crop to harvest, sowing the seeds of communication between campus and community while at the same time creating a beautiful backdrop for this summer's planting. Watch video

    On one panel, arms clutch a harvest of tomatoes, while a child holds out a delicate rosebud just before it blooms.

    In another, an anonymous hand clutches a spade. It's easy to imagine an avid gardener ready to prepare the soil for spring seedlings.

    The figures are rendered in vivid shades of blue, yellow, aqua and red, components of a three-part mural created for the community garden at Poplar and Taylor streets in East Trenton.

    Even as a community garden brings together the energies and talents of many individuals united in a common endeavor, the newly installed artwork represents a partnership between The College of New Jersey and the East Trenton Collaborative.

    The Collaborative, formed in 2009 to push for revitalization of the neighborhood, is composed of residents and organizations working in tandem to improve quality of life and prospects for the region. Among its members are New Jersey Community Capital, Habitat for Humanity of Trenton, and Isles, Inc.

    Mural adds to charm of a community garden in Trenton

    The students are taking part in a class on Arts and Interactive Media led by Carolina Blatt, assistant professor of art education at the college. The project's goal was to build a bridge between community and campus, Blatt said as students worked to affix the large panels along the garden's chain-link fence.

    "We wanted to bring joy to this particular corner," Blatt said, and it was apparent from the grins on residents' faces that she and her students had met that worthy goal.

    "Awesome," said Evelyn Hawthorne, one of the prime movers behind the garden's existence and a tireless community advocate, said as she surveyed the large work of art. "Something I've waited for a long, long time."

    The students' efforts also included designing and decorating vibrantly colored garden markers: stylized depictions of eggplants, squash, cucumbers and other crops.

    One marker reminds viewers that "Tomatoes can grow roots anywhere their vines touch the soil."

    That's an apt metaphor for a community garden, one that flourishes at the hands of those who tend it.

    "We've worked with some really amazing residents, and the students have really come together to create something that they think will be meaningful to the community," the professor said.

    The partners in this mural project are coming together to produce a bountiful crop to harvest, sowing the seeds of communication between campus and community while at the same time creating a beautiful backdrop for this summer's planting.

    Bookmark Follow on Twitter @NJ_Opinion and find Opinion on Facebook.


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    Court documents allege Frank Maile continually asked a contact in the Phillipines to arrange sex with a 14-year-old girl's younger sister

    Federal authorities arrested a Plumsted man Tuesday on a charge accusing him of creating videos and images of two juvenile girls performing sex acts on each other in the Philippines.

    Frank W. Maile, 62, of New Egypt, appeared in U.S. District Court in Trenton Wednesday and was held in custody without bail, the U.S. Attorney's Office in New Jersey announced.

    He's charged with one count of producing visual depictions of child sexual abuse outside the United States, with the intent that the depictions be imported into the United States.

    Investigators believe the sex acts with the underage girls occurred in December 2015. Other evidence alleges he pursued sex with girls for several years.

    Maile is a globetrotting pilot for a cargo carrier and is retired from the U.S. Air Force, authorities said. His social media pages describe him working for Atlas Air.

    The federal criminal complaint against Maile says he arrived from a trip abroad April 6 in Huntsville, Alabama and border authorities manually searched his electronic devices and found an image of child sex abuse on his laptop computer.

    Authorities seized it, as well as four other devices, and investigated further and found a large volume or apparently original child sex abuse image of several victims, the complaint alleges.

    Among the evidence and communications investigators say they uncovered are electronic chats Maile had with a person in the Philippines described as an "arranger or pimp."

    Starting around June 2013, Maile and the person began discussing Maile having sex with two minor sisters. The chats, and other evidence, suggest Maile had sex with the older sister in December 2013. 

    More conversations in 2014 show Maile chatting with the arranger and repeatedly expressing an interest two young girls, and the arranger replying, in 2014, that the older one of the girls was 14.

    Maile then suggested the girl should take birth control pills, and the arranger in the Philippines responded, she was "too young" for birth control.

    Over the course of 2013, 2014, and 2015, Maile continued to express an interest in having sex with the younger sister, and got impatient when the arranger said the younger girl was not yet ready to have sex, the complaint says.

    Around December 2014, Maile allegedly chatted with the younger girl - through the arranger - and the girl said it was her 10th birthday, the complaint says.

    Authorities suspect, from using U.S. Customs and Border Patrol records, that Maile was in the United States, and probably at his residence in Ocean County, while chatting about engaging in sexual activity with the two sisters.

    Federal authorities believe Maile eventually travelled to the Philippines and filmed the sisters in sex acts, in December 2015.

    The complaint also says Maile, in allegedly setting up the meeting, asked about the price for him having sex with the younger sister. The arranger said he would ask the girl's mother.

    Kevin Shea may be reached at Follow him on Twitter@kevintshea. Find on Facebook.



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    A video surfaced on May 2, 2018, allegedly depicting a teacher's union president saying that he will downplay and lie about a teacher beating a student. Watch video

    A Hamilton Township school employee has been suspended after a hidden camera video appeared to depict him saying he would downplay and not report an incident of a teacher beating a student.

    The video was published Wednesday on YouTube by Project Veritas -- which the New Jersey Education Association said has used "illegal tactics to "fabricate false stories" -- and identifies the employee as Hamilton Township Education Association President David R. Perry.

    The incident between the student and teacher never happened. The Veritas employee, posing as the sister-in-law of a fictitious middle school teacher, used it to get the man identified as Perry to talk about what steps would be taken if the student reported the assault. Perry could not be reached immediately for comment.

    Hamilton Township Superintendent Scott Rocco said in a statement Wednesday afternoon that once he was aware of the video the district called authorities, suspended "the individual" and opened an internal investigation.

    "The true beliefs and values of this school district are not represented in this video and are not aligned with who we are as faculty, staff, administration, and community," Rocco said.

    In the video, the man identified as Perry says the teacher should come to him and tell him "the truth" about what happened. Later, he says he could change the date of any records he keeps, making it appear it was reported the day after it happened, and that he would downplay the incident.

    Law keeps schools from hiring teachers accused of sex abuse

    "I need to know the truth, so that we can bend the truth," he says in the video. "If nobody brings it up from (the) school, I don't say boo.

    "I'm here to defend even the worst people," he later says on camera.

    In a second video, Project Veritas' James O'Keefe confronts Perry about the undercover video. "I said, what we do is we help people," Perry says in a second video. "And what they do wrong, they deserve their punishment."

    Project Veritas has been criticized for using selective editing to create false impressions about what people in academia, government and social service organizations have said during undercover audio or video conversations. The New Jersey Education Association dismissed the video.

    "Project Veritas cannot be trusted as a source and should not be dignified with coverage or response, other than to note that it is a political advocacy organization with a history of using dishonest and illegal tactics to fabricate false stories," the NJEA said in a statement. "Nothing is more important to NJEA members than the safety and well-being of the students they are privileged to educate. NJEA members go above and beyond every day to ensure that students are safe, healthy and well educated."

    The video was also posted to the Facebook page of Hamilton Township Community Supporting Education, where several people who identified themselves as parents called the video sickening.

    "This is just pathetic," Denise Ragolia-Ayres commented. "I have kids in this school system and this is infuriating."

    Others were skeptical because Project Veritas was responsible for the video.

    "I don't trust any videos put out by Project Veritas," said Allison Shifman Chartier. "This organization (is) horrific and has been proven to edit video for political purposes in the past. I am horrified they are in NJ, let alone Hamilton."

    Allison Pries may be reached at Follow her on Twitter @AllisonPries. Find on Facebook. 


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    From opening bell to dismissal, and everything in between.

    I had the opportunity last summer to visit the schools from my youth. It was bittersweet as both St. Francis of Assisi School and Sacred Heart High School have closed.

    It was at St. Francis that I realized something I hadn't before; elementary school -- especially for those of us who attended grades 1 through 8 in the same building - is a long stretch for a kid to spend in one place.

    DSC_7242 - Copy.JPGFormerly St. Francis of Assisi School, the building is now home to the Compass Academy Charter School. 

    The building that was once home to St. Francis of Assisi School looked almost the same last summer as it did when I attended decades ago. Except for air conditioners and a new sign for the current occupants, a public charter school, it appeared virtually unchanged.

    MORE: Vintage photos around New Jersey

    But it also occurred to me just how much a child's life changed along the length of the single hallway inside that building.

    We entered as babies, really, first graders who were spending most of the day away from home for the very first time. We progressed up that hallway, and eventually left at the other end of the building as teenagers, only a few years short of adulthood.

    Eight of the most important years of our lives, measured in numbered doors alternating even and odd along an unchanging hall.

    Funny - so many times back then, I couldn't wait to get out; that day this past summer, I almost couldn't bring myself to leave.

    Here's a vintage gallery of schools, students and activities in New Jersey. And here are links to other school galleries you'll enjoy.

    Vintage photos of education in N.J.

    Vintage photos of N.J. schools and schoolchildren

    Vintage photos of going back to school in N.J.

    Greg Hatala may be reached at Follow him on Twitter @GregHatala. Find Greg Hatala on Facebook.

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    The 'Power in the Pines' air show at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst in New Jersey will be held Saturday, May 5 and Sunday, May 6.

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    Among the concerns officials say, are if the company is running background checks on employees who work in Robbinsville's 3 schools

    What started as complaints about dirty bathrooms and possibly diluted custodial chemicals has blossomed into a police investigation of the vendor which provides custodial services to Robbinsville's schools, officials say.

    Among the concerns officials say, are if the company is running background checks on employees who work in the township's three schools, as well as complaints to school officials about the vendor - All Clean, in Lawrence - possibly using no-show employees.

    Officials say they want to make sure the company is providing all services the contract calls for, from well-stocked and clean facilities to proper employees assigned cleaning duties.

    Officials with All Clean, which is located on Spruce Street, in Lawrence with a Trenton mailing address, could not immediately be reached for comment.

    School officials say the contract is for nearly $1 million annually, and split nearly even among the three schools, Sharon Elementary School, Pond Road Middle School, and Robbinsville High School.

    Officials say their main focus is to make sure the students are safe.

    Rich Young, the Robbinsville Board of Education president, said allegations were first part of an internal review that eventually was brought to the police department.

    "To be clear: the health and welfare of our students and staff is our number one priority," Young said. "Secondly, we need to ensure that the vendors contracted to provide services to our district are fulfilling their contractual obligations, and are truly providing all that we are paying for.

    "We are committed to getting to the bottom of this situation and, if needed, will take appropriate action."

    Police Lt. William Swanhart said in a statement, "We cannot comment on an ongoing investigation."

    Mayor Dave Fried said he's aware of the issues too.

    "We've received numerous complaints about the cleanliness and maintenance of the schools over the past year or so," said Fried, who was speaking also as director of public safety.

    "After a whistleblower recently came forward with similar complaints and concerns, that led us to opening an inquiry to make sure there was not a public safety issue that would jeopardize the safety of the children. We will present a full report to the school board once that inquiry is completed," Fried said.

    Kevin Shea may be reached at Follow him on Twitter@kevintshea. Find on Facebook.

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    Which teams moved up? Which slipped down the list? Find out here.

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    3 men have been shot and killed at the same gas station in the last 2 years. Watch video

    A man was gunned down Wednesday night inside a Shell Gas station, across from the Trenton Central High School construction site, authorities said.

    Aveon Perry, 28, of Trenton was inside the gas station on the 800 block of Greenwood Avenue around 11:30 p.m. Wednesday when he was struck by gunfire, Mercer County Prosecutors said. When city police arrived on the scene, they found him with multiple gunshot wounds. 

    First responders transported Perry to Capital Health Regional Medial Center, in the city, but he was pronounced dead shortly after. 

    On Thursday morning, the parking lot of the Shell station was blocked off to pedestrians with caution tape, as the joint Mercer County Homicide Task Force continued its investigation. Fourteen evidence markers could be seen in the parking lot and surrounding block.

    In September 2016, three others were shot and two killed in the gas station's parking lot. 

    Earlier Wednesday evening, Trenton police Lt. Steve Varn told NJ Advance Media, two others were shot in the Battle Monument neighborhood in North Trenton.

    A 21-year-old man was found with a gunshot wound to his leg on the 600 block of Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, and a 22-year-old man had been shot in the knee and was picked up on the 300 block of Brunswick Avenue.  

    Both men were transported to Capital Health Regional Medical Center and treated for their injuries, Varn said. 

    The city's Shooting Response Team believes those two were shot by the same person or group, Varn said, and the team is continuing their investigation.

    Expo preview

    Paige Gross may be reached at pgross@njadvancemedia.comFollow her on Twitter @By_paigegross. Find on Facebook

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    NJ Advance Media ranks each county by its alums playing college lacrosse.

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    See and vote for N.J.'s best sophomores in girls lacrosse this season.

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    The man was from Florida, traveling in a tractor trailer.

    A trucker from Florida who was passing through New Jersey was found with more than $2 million in drugs when authorities searched his tractor trailer at a New Jersey Turnpike rest stop, prosecutors said. 

    On Tuesday evening, Mercer County Narcotics Task Force officers searched the truck bearing a Florida registration at the Woodrow Wilson Service Area on the northbound side of the turnpike in Hamilton Township. 

    Angarone and BelaDetective Joe Angarone and his K-9 Bela. (File photo) 

    Prosecutor's Detective Sgt. Joe Angarone's K9 partner, Bela, alerted him to the scent of drugs, and "detectives became suspicious of the driver's nervous demeanor," prosecutors said. 

    They found 13 kilograms of cocaine and four kilograms of heroin hidden in the sleeping portion of the trailer.

    Prosecutors estimate the street value of the seized cocaine was $1.3 and the heroin was worth $800,000.

    The driver, Frank Rosario, 44, of Kissimmee, Florida, was charged with multiple narcotic-related offenses, and the prosecutor's office has filed to have him detained. 

    The investigation is ongoing. 

    Paige Gross may be reached at pgross@njadvancemedia.comFollow her on Twitter @By_paigegross. Find on Facebook

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    Kathleen Valencia is the second teacher this week to be suspended following a Project Veritas video. Watch video

    The Union City teachers union chief is under fire after the release of an undercover video that shows her denigrating some of the city's public-school students, suggesting a teacher not report that he hurt a student and referring to a Union City teacher who had sex with a child but was not charged criminally.

    Conservative group Project Veritas, which has been slammed by the statewide teachers union for "using dishonest and illegal tactics to fabricate false stories," released the 15-minute video on Wednesday morning, one day following the release of a similar video that resulted in the suspension of a teachers union president in Hamilton Township. Kathleen Valencia, president of the Union City Education Association, is identified as the woman in the newest sting.

    Asked to comment, a statement from the school district says Valencia has been suspended.

    "The board finds the comments that were made deeply disturbing and inappropriate because they in no way reflect the views, and core beliefs and values, of our school district, or of the professionalism of our educators, and other employees," the statement says. "We have no governing control over the UCEA, its policies or procedures — we are separate and distinct entities. The UCEA does not speak for our school district."

    Requests for comment from Valencia were not returned.

    In the video, a woman working for Project Veritas poses as the sister of a Union City teacher worried about losing his job for pushing and injuring a student. In occasionally whispered tones, Valencia tells the woman not to worry.

    "Did the kid's parent come in? No? Nothing happened," Valencia says. "There's no video? Nothing happened."

    Valencia, whose LinkedIn page says she works at Jose Marti Freshman Academy, goes on to trash some of the children in the 14,000-student district.

    "I know dirt bags. I have taught the dirt bags. They have a whole dirt bag class at the high school. I've taught the dirt bag class, OK?" Valencia says in the video. "It's the biggest f***ing pieces of s*** I have worked with."

    The woman from Project Veritas expresses fear that her brother will be criminally charged and asks Valencia for assurance that he won't be.

    "People have done worse things than him and, like, been fine?" the woman says.

    In response, Valencia points to a file on her desk.

    "This file right here is from a teacher who had sex with a student, OK? You're not going to jail," Valencia says. "This file is about whether or not the teacher gets to keep his pension. Sex with a teenage girl. Is he going to jail? No. How come? Because the child's not pressing charges."

    Project Veritas, headed by James O'Keefe, has been criticized for selectively editing videos to push a conservative agenda. A woman working with the group tried to get the Washington Post in 2017 to publish false information about Roy Moore, a Republican Senate candidate.

    The New Jersey Education Association yesterday issued a statement slamming Project Veritas after the video of the Hamilton teacher, who is seen in that video saying he would not report a teacher who beat a student. The statewide union did not respond to comment about the Union City video.

    "Project Veritas cannot be trusted as a source and should not be dignified with coverage or response, other than to note that it is a political advocacy organization with a history of using dishonest and illegal tactics to fabricate false stories," the NJEA said. "Nothing is more important to NJEA members than the safety and well-being of the students they are privileged to educate. NJEA members go above and beyond every day to ensure that students are safe, healthy and well educated."

    Pay records show Valencia was hired in 2002 and makes over $68,000.

    Terrence T. McDonald may be reached at Follow him on Twitter @terrencemcd. Find The Jersey Journal on Facebook.

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    He was nominated for the Eastern League Player of the Month, but will have stiff competition two players.

    Kaleb Ort's path to the Trenton Thunder is unlike any other player on the team.

    After an injury in his senior year of college at Aquinas (MI), Ort had to rehab and work his way back into the game. He signed with the Joliet Slammers of the Frontier League, and pitched there for a year and a game, before he was signed in May of 2016.

    At 26, after a stint in Independent ball, many people would believe that Ort is a system player, signed to fill the rosters in hope that he can climb the rungs as far as he can.

    But talking to various major league scouts that have been to Trenton this season, and the thought is that Ort is a potential jewel in the Yankees minor league organization. They believe that Ort will be in the Bronx this season, less than two years removed from his time with Joliet.

    "It has been fun," Ort said. "It has been fun to get signed out of there, and come play here."

    His minor league numbers are strong. He is 3-0, with a 1.46 ERA and 10 saves in 26 games at Pulaski, Staten Island, and Trenton. But the stat that immediately pops out is the strikeout to innings; 57 Ks in 37 innings pitched.

    In Trenton this season, Ort has thrown 11 innings, and struck out 18, with a 1.64 ERA. He has allowed nine hits, and walked eight, so there is still work to do. But every time he goes out to the mound (he has six appearances in 24 Thunder games), whether with the lead or trying to keep the Thunder in the game, he has done his job.

    He may also get a chance to close out some games for manager Jay Bell.

    "It is huge to know that you are going to be throwing every seven or eight days," Ort said. "Our bullpen is doing really well. I love it (coming into the game late). I like those types of situations. That is what I did in Pulaski and Staten Island.

    "You can always work on everything to improve. I would say I have to work on everything. I feel like I have good command of my fastball, and that it is playing well. My breaking ball is playing well too."

    Relegation battle springs to life in final weeks of Premier League season


    Yankees number three prospect Justus Sheffield will make his next start in Triple A, after another solid start on the road trip. The Yankees promoted Jonathan Loaisiga to Trenton, and the starter took the ball Thursday night in the first game of four with Harrisburg.

    Ort played a huge role in the comeback win Wednesday, to give Trenton (14-10) a series win in Portland. The Thunder trailed 6-0 after two innings, and the bullpen had to be utilized after just 1.1 innings. Ort pitched the fourth and fifth innings, and shut down the Sea Dogs, along with four other relievers.

    The Thunder rallied for three in the seventh, and four in the eighth, to pick up a 9-8 win.

    Trenton went 3-2 on the road trip, with the game April 29 in New Hampshire suspended due to wet grounds. It will be completed on July 16, prior to the the regularly scheduled contest with the Fisher Cats.

    The Thunder went to Portland for the following series, and saw their game with the Sea Dogs cancelled on April 30. The two teams played a double header May 1, which ended up as a split. 

    Ben Ruta has dropped to fourth in the league in batting average, but is still hitting .371. He was nominated for the Eastern League Player of the Month, but will have stiff competition from two of the players ahead of him in the average race: New Hampshire's Vlad Guerrero Jr. (.380 BA, 30 H, 8 2B, 1 3B, 2 HR, 25 RBI, 15 R, .442 OBP, .582 SLG in April) and Binghamton's Peter Alonso (.408 BA, 31 H, 7 2B, 7 HR, 19 RBI, 18 R, .505 OBP, .776 SLG in April). 

    Erik Swanson leads the EL in ERA, at 0.87, and is tied for the lead with four wins (4-0).

    Abiatal Avelino was added to the Thunder roster Monday from Triple A Scranton Wilkes-Barre. He was hitting .286 with the RailRiders.

    Contact Sean Miller at Follow him on Twitter @TheProdigalSean

    0 0 takes a look at the top 80 sophomores in the state.

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    New Jersey's capital shares with Newark a diverse work force, making it attractive to a tech industry trying hard to atone for a paucity of female and minority entrepreneurs among its ranks.

    If someone had told you five years ago that Newark would be among the 20 finalists in Amazon's high-profile search for a second headquarters, you'd have laughed yourself silly.

    If New Jersey's governor had referred to Newark as "a city clearly on the rise," not to mention a "model for urban revitalization," you'd have questioned his grip on reality.

    Yet both of those things have come to pass as the metropolis known as the Brick City has seen the infusion of billions of dollars in new investments as its ticket back to prosperity.

    And so the question begs to be answered: Could Trenton be next?

    At a forum this week sponsored by the New Jersey Business & Industry Association as well as by Audible, the audiobook company based in Newark, Gov. Phil Murphy suggested that the Cinderella tale in Newark could be duplicated elsewhere in the Garden State.

    "The real beauty is that it doesn't just have to be a Newark story," he said. "Cities once were the economic engines of our state, and they will be again."

    Newark's leading the way and others should follow, Murphy says

    Newark's leaders have worked diligently to brand the city as a high-tech center; the high-capacity internet fiber snaking beneath its sidewalks is a case in point.

    In addition to Audible, a subsidiary of Amazon that employs 1,400 workers, Newark calls itself home to such industry standouts as Prudential, Panasonic Corporation of North America, IDT Corporation and Manischewitz.

    In touting Newark's appearance on Amazon's Top 20 List, the governor rattled off a string of strong selling points: proximity to New York City, the presence of major highways, access to a major airport and a major port, and an abundance of universities providing a steady stream of brain power.

    To a greater or lesser degree, Trenton can claim many of the same attributes, with the added bonus of our closeness to Philadelphia and Washington, D.C.

    While Newark boasts such entertainment venues as the New Jersey Performing Arts Center, Newark Symphony Hall and the Prudential Center, Trenton's burgeoning arts scene is increasingly putting our city on the map.

    An April story in The New York Times carried the headline: "Art, Punk Rock & a New Governor Reinvigorate Trenton." It highlighted such venues as the pioneering Artworks Gallery for local, national and international artists, and the newly launched BSB Gallery, a reincarnation of a long-empty bank building.

    Moreover, New Jersey's capital shares with Newark a diverse work force, making it attractive to a tech industry trying hard to atone for a paucity of female and minority entrepreneurs among its ranks.

    Could Trenton be the next Newark? Hell, yes, with a little vision and a lot of imagination.

    Bookmark Follow on Twitter @NJ_Opinion and find Opinion on Facebook.


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    A woman and her 5-year-old daughter that were headed to the Trenton-Mercer Airport have been missing since May 3, 2018.

    CarteretMissing.jpgSawatha Ford, 47, of Carteret. (courtesy Middlesex County Prosecutor's Office)

    Police are asking for help in locating a Carteret woman and her 5-year-old daughter who have been missing since early Thursday, authorities said.

    The Carteret Police Department and the Middlesex County Prosecutor's Office are seeking information on Sawatha Ford, 47, and her daughter after they were reported missing by family members.

    A release from the Middlesex County Prosecutor's Office states that they left the Union Township area at 3:43 a.m. and were headed to the Trenton-Mercer Airport, but never boarded their plane.

    Ford and her daughter were last known to be in Ewing Township near Bear Tavern Road a short distance from the airport.

    Authorities said Ford was driving a white 2007 Acura MDX with license plate VPE96W.

    Anyone with information can call Carteret Police Sgt. Kenneth Freeman at 732-541-4181 or Middlesex County Prosecutor's Office Det. Christopher Pennisi at 732-745-3300.

    Chris Sheldon may be reached at Follow him on Twitter @chrisrsheldon Find on Facebook.


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    The 2002 Chevy pickup has lights, sirens and a whole lot of green. Watch video

    If you were a cop, what would you do with a truck that was used with intent to commit a sex crime against a child?

    It's a sizable hunk of metal, so you could deploy it when you need to barricade a road somewhere.

    But how about getting it totally tricked out and turning it into something fun for kids instead?

    Riverside Township Police opted for the latter. They turned this 2002 Chevy Silverado into the Kidz FunZone Game Center, "to bring joy to children instead of harm," as their chief wrote in a letter to residents.

    They seized the wheels from a Gloucester County man who came to the township in 2015 thinking he was going to meet with a 13-year-old girl for sex. 

    Instead, Michael Royal, of National Park, found Capt. David Jaensch, who is part of the Internet Crimes Against Children task force. He had been messaging with Royal online as part of a sting to get child predators off the street.

    Royal later pleaded guilty in the case, but the truck remained.

    "Initially we thought we could use it for barricades or something," Jaensch said. Then they thought: "Wouldn't it be great if we take something used to harm a kid, and turn it into something good instead."

    Within weeks of seizing the truck, Jaensch and the department got a local auto body shop and sponsors to paint it bright green, and outfitted it with lights, police logos and even a siren.

    The truck was outfitted and paid for with forfeiture funds and donations of both cash and labor, not taxpayer money.

    The truck is brought around to community events with attached HD TVs with attached video games. It can also be used for outdoor movie nights when the weather's nice.

    After receiving additional sponsorships and donations, it pulls a trailer with sports equipment to stage other events for kids. And it's been a regular fixture at car shows and local parades.

    At the events, kids get to know the cops outside of just seeing them on patrol, Jaensch said.

    "They get to see us, that we're people too, we're not just someone in a car driving by," he said. "It really just helps us reach a lot of people we might not otherwise."

    With the weather warming up, the department's making a schedule to get it back on the road again.

    Riverside is not the only law enforcement agency to turn a seized vehicle into something new: the Mercer County Prosecutor's Office recently turned this Mercedes-Benz into a community outreach police car. It will make an appearance at the upcoming NJ Special Olympics Law Enforcement Torch Run and the Cops, Kids & Car Show at Waterfront Park in Trenton, spokeswoman Casey DeBlasio said.

    IMG_0082.JPGThe Mercer Mercedes in question. 

    Joe Brandt can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @JBrandt_NJ. Find on Facebook.

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    For the second straight day, daily temperature records have been broken across New Jersey as the intense summer-like heat continues in early May.

    Do you hear that hum? That's the sound of a million air conditioners working overtime around New Jersey as an unusual blast of summer weather has pushed temperatures up as high as 94 degrees in parts of our region Thursday afternoon, breaking several record highs for May 3.

    The latest records to be shattered were at the airports in Newark, Trenton and Atlantic City, as well as in New Brunswick, according to data from the National Weather Service and the New Jersey Weather & Climate Network at Rutgers University.

    At Atlantic City International Airport, located inland in Pomona, the mercury hit 90 degrees at about 1 p.m., then rose to 93 degrees during the next two hours, breaking the airport's previous record high for May 3 by four degrees. The old record of 89 degrees was set in 1913, then matched in 2001.

    At Newark Liberty International Airport's climate station, located in the Elizabeth section of the airport, the temperature rose to 92 degrees shortly before 2 p.m., then climbed to 94, the weather service reported. The airport's previous record high for May 3 was 91 degrees, set in 2001.

    At Trenton-Mercer Airport in the West Trenton section of Ewing, the very old record high of 90 degrees, set in 1913, was broken in the late afternoon, when the airport's thermometer reached 91degrees.

    Daily records were also broken in New York City's Central Park, which hit 92 degrees, and at Philadelphia International Airport, which had an afternoon reading of 91 degrees.

    Hottest places in N.J.

    The steamiest place in New Jersey Thursday afternoon was Teterboro Airport, where the mercury soared to 96 degrees, according to National Weather Service data. Also steamy were  Sicklerville and Toms River, where the temperature rose to 94 degrees. Checking in at 93 degrees were Haworth, Oceanport, Oswego Lake, Sea Girt and Vineland.

    And these are among the many towns that hit 92 degrees: Berkeley Township, Cedar Bridge, Hamilton, Hawthorne, Hillsborough, Hopewell, Howell, Jersey City, Upper Deerfield, Walpack, Wayne and West Deptford.  

    All of this hot air is flowing into New Jersey from the south and west, thanks to a large dome of high pressure that's stationed off the Carolina coast. Known as a "Bermuda high" because of its proximity to Bermuda, this type of weather pattern is more common during the summer months than early spring.

    New Jersey can expect one more day of summer-like temperatures -- and higher humidity -- on Friday, before things return to normal this weekend, when highs will be in the upper 60s and low 70s.


    Note: This report was updated on May 4 to include the final May 3 temperature readings recorded by the National Weather Service in Atlantic City, Newark, Teterboro, Trenton, New York City and Philadelphia. 

    Len Melisurgo may be reached at Follow him on Twitter @LensReality or like him on Facebook. Find on Facebook.

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    The two vanished while driving to Trenton-Mercer Airport on Thursday

    A Carteret mother and her 5-year-old daughter who went missing after missing a flight at Trenton-Mercer Airport on Thursday were found safe in Virginia on Friday morning, authorities said. 

    carteretmissingjpg-400f5a2964b4924a.jpgSawatha Ford, 47, of Carteret. (Middlesex County Prosecutor's Office) 

    Chesterfield, Virginia police found Sawatha Ford, 47, of Carteret and the girl at a hotel there, the Middlesex County Prosecutor's Office said. 

    The two left the Union Township area at 3:43 a.m. Thursday to catch a flight at Trenton-Mercer Airport, but never boarded the plane, officials said previously.

    Ford and her daughter were last seen in a white Acura on Bear Tavern Road in Ewing, a short distance from the airport. They were reported missing by family members. 

    The prosecutor's office said no additional information was available.

    Jeff Goldman may be reached at Follow him on Twitter @JeffSGoldman. Find on Facebook.



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