On Monday, police officials said that for the first time since Nov. 10, 1998, Newark had gone four weeks without a homicide, a milestone that had the police director, Garry F. McCarthy, cautiously speaking about it as if a corner had finally been turned.
“There seems to be a leveling off,” he said.
“We were frustrated last year,” he said. “We reduced the shooting numbers, but we didn’t see a commensurate drop in murders. Now, we’re seeing the effects of all things we put into play.”
The work of the Booker administration and the NPD has been paying off as crime has been reduced across the board. Anecdotally, I’ve seen this as well: where once the Ironbound seemed to be underpatroled (often, days would pass between squad car sightings in 2005), we now see cops regularly patrolling the streets and near the nightclubs up on Ferry Street.
I’m embarrassed to admit that I was just pulled over the other night myself. I was using my cell phone as I pulled around the corner of my block, without a headset. A patrolman gave me the siren, pulled alongside my car and asked why I was on the phone. Whoops. I gave him a lame excuse and he let me go.
But, wow: I’ve been living in Newark for over three years, and was studying at Rutgers and NJIT before that for four years — driving in the city for over seven years, all told. Not once did I ever expect to be pulled over by the NPD for something as simple as using a cell phone while driving. This police department feels different, though. More active, more involved.
The key question here: has Newark reached a tipping point? Booker was proud to drop this stat during his State of the City, but no doubt it came at the expense of some serious intensity he’s brought to the Newark Police these past few weeks. Can we keep the momentum?
I hope so. If the city can maintain a low murder rate for 2008, this will truly be one of the city’s best years in decades.