Taking Back Our Streets: Crime Reduction in Newark

Newark’s longstanding narrative of progress has had many names (anyone remember the “Renaissance City?”), but a singular, pernicious problem: how can any administration claim progress in the city when the crime problem has showed unsteady improvement?
Newark Police Director Garry McCarthy joins me to discuss how the city is approaching the crime problem and his expectations for the future. More after the jump.

Newark’s longstanding narrative of progress has had many names (anyone remember the “Renaissance City?”), but a singular, pernicious problem: how can any administration claim progress in the city when the crime problem has showed unsteady improvement?
Newark Police Director Garry McCarthy joins me to discuss how the city is approaching the crime problem and his expectations for the future.  More after the jump.

[audio://dailynewarker.com/files/2010/01/TDN Podcast – McCarthy.mp3]

When the Booker administration arrived in City Hall, they inherited a city with a rising murder rate and a reputation for lawlessness.  In his inauguration speech in 2006, the Mayor promised to add hundreds of officers to the street and implement zero-tolerance policing:

His focus landed squarely on crime. Citing the city’s rising murder rate, and naming victims who died young, he said, ‘‘We have work to do in America when any child is killed.’‘

Specifically, Mr. Booker said his administration would immediately implement zero-tolerance policing. Reiterating his campaign promise to add hundreds of officers to the streets, he said, ‘‘I will enforce all laws, from traffic laws, with people speeding down our suburban streets, to littering laws.’‘

Much of the mayor’s success in his first term hinges on crime reduction, particularly after the tragic murder of three college-bound Newarkers in 2007, which made national headlines and devastated the city.

Since taking the civilian post in 2006, Mr. McCarthy has made strategic changes to the Newark Police Department to focus resources on the city’s most difficult issues.  The Star Ledger recently reported the 2009 results by highlighting an increase in homicides, though every major crime category — including shootings — was substantially down for the year.

The director joined me on the podcast to discuss how these numbers square — how can you have more murders with fewer shootings? — and how the NPD is sustaining its focus going into 2010 in order to see further crime reduction.

Dreams Deferred, a Filmmaker Explores 2003 Hate-Crime

Filmmaker Charles B. Brack has produced a documentary to remember and examine the hate-crime killing of Sakia Gunn, a lesbian high school student: Film Examines a Newark Hate Crime. The crime took place in Newark in 2003 on the corner of Market and Broad streets.
The film, “<a href=“http://www.sakiagunnfilmproject.com/&#8221; Dreams Deferred: The Sakia Gunn Film Project,” highlights the lack of media coverage of Gunn’s tragic slaying, which was largely ignored by the national media, despite its exposure of a deep and ugly bias against the LGBT community.

A documentary recounts the 2003 killing of Sakia Gunn, 15, a lesbian high school student in Newark.

In 2003, Sakia Gunn, a 15-year-old lesbian high school student, was fatally stabbed in downtown Newark by a man who had approached her in the street and made sexual advances to her and her friends, which they declined.

The case, which was prosecuted as a hate crime, drew widespread attention in gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender communities, though considerably less news coverage than that of Matthew Shepard, the 21-year-old gay college student who was abducted, beaten, tied to a pole and left to freeze to death in Laramie, Wyo., in 1998.

Burglaries Up: Barbed Wire Ordinance the Culprit?

barbedwireThe Associated Press is reporting today that a 17% rise in burglaries in Newark in 2008 has been, according to critics, in part due to the city’s ban on barbed wire: Critics say Newark barbed wire ban helps criminals.
It’s not surprising with all the positive coverage about the 30% drop in violent crime that the contrarian story is emerging about burglary. I’d be curious to hear from Police Director McCarthy about how the NPD plans to fight this trend rather than whine about this ordinance.

We live across from two churches whose lots are both surrounded by barbed wire — the aesthetic impact to the neighborhood is costly.

Some business owners in this crime-plagued city say recent enforcement of a decades-old ordinance prohibiting some types of barbed wire and razor wire is making Newark more attractive — to thieves.

Burglaries are up 17 percent from 2007 through November in Newark, which has a young, charismatic mayor who has vowed to help the city rebound from decades of official inaction, incompetence and outright criminality.

The city is aggressively courting new investment and development, but people who have been ordered to downgrade their fences say officials are worried more about aesthetics than security.

Newark to Close 2008 with Over 30% Decline in Murder

Very good news for Newarkers: Newark murders decline as police focus on drug-related shootings.

Since then, representatives of local, county and federal law enforcement agencies have gotten together every couple of weeks to divvy up the city’s worst drug spots. The initiative, called Violent Enterprise Strategic Targeting, focused on busting lots of street-level crews and their managers—picking up four or five at a time on whatever charges would stick, from murder and assault to carrying drugs or holding a gun.

“It seemed to follow that if you reduce the number of narcotics-related shootings, you’ll reduce the number of murders,” McCarthy said.

And it seems to be working. The number of shootings, including drug-related attacks, dropped significantly last year, driving the murder rate further down. As of today, Newark had 67 murders in 2008, compared to 99 the year before, and 107 in 2006. Of this year’s 67 murders, 36 percent were drug related, compared to nearly half of 2007’s killings, police say.

While murder showed a steep decline, we’ll finish the year with a double-digit increase in both burglary and robbery, according to the Newark Police Department homepage, an issue which Police Director McCarthy attributes to better statistical tracking.

Newark Official Pleads Guilty to Bribery

This week’s NJ corruption scandal follows the money to City Council President Mildred Crump’s former chief of staff, Keith O. Reid.

He was accused of accepting $10,000 in bribes from a fake insurance agency set up by federal authorities to insure municipal contracts. Assistant U.S. Attorney Chris Gramiccioni, one of the attorneys who handled the case, said Reid approached the state about a plea bargain on Friday.”

In court, Judge William Walls asked Reid if he had enough time over the weekend to consider the guilty plea.

“I had a sleepless weekend,” Reid replied.

Funny how a pending bribery conviction will do that.

Officer Suspended for Choke Hold

Newark suspends special police officer after arrest of TV cameraman

Newark police said today they suspended a special police officer who had arrested a Channel 2 news cameraman and put him in a chokehold while he was filming a demonstration on Sunday.

Christine Sloan, a Channel 2 newswoman who was present during the arrest, wrote on the station’s website that Quodomine was filming on a public sidewalk when Sharif ordered him to stop and then grabbed his camera and wrestled with him.

If you haven’t seen it, a video of the incident is below — pretty disturbing stuff, and it comes on the heels of a recent protest in Newark against…you guessed it…police brutality.

The incident drew quite the reaction around the blogosphere. Carlos Miller, writing for Photography is Not a Crime, questions the officer’s relationship to the Police Department and notes:

If they are not police officers, then why the hell is Shariff wearing a yellow vest that clearly states “Newark Police”? And why the hell does Shariff have the power to arrest citizens?

It sounds to me that Booker is trying to take blame off the Newark Police Department, which was sued twice in one week in January over separate First Amendment issues.

The officer’s quick suspension is appreciated, but I wonder how much of this old world mentality still exists in the NPD.

Violent Crime Scares Off Suburban Schools

2 suburban schools refuse trips to Newark for football
The city’s recent rash of violence has begun to have an impact on school sports as neighboring communities decline to send their children to city football fields.

Scotch Plains-Fanwood High School and Cranford High School balked at playing games rescheduled from last Friday and Saturday. Newark school Superintendent Clifford Janey had suspended all athletic events districtwide while police were hunting for suspects in the Friday afternoon shootings.

In response, the administration stays on message: this year has seen a 40% decline in murders — a statistic that Newark leads in the nation.  The shootings were localized events between people that knew each other away from Newark schools.

But, to suburbanites, these claims fall on deaf ears.  People in suburban communities don’t distinguish between the hockey rink downtown, the restaurants in Ironbound, Branch Brook Park in the North Ward,  or the numbered streets in the West Ward: it’s all monolithic, scary Newark.  Just like big, monolithic scary New York was to my parents in the 80s.

Neighborhood parsing is something that urbanites do — it requires a level of savvy and sophistication about the issues and geography of a city.  I hope, to some degree, that the Daily Newarker helps strip away some of this naiveté about the city, but this goes to show just how much real fear there still is about Newark and how much further we have to go in the eyes of much of New Jersey.

Crime Blotter: Oct 12 – Oct 19

I’m not sure if the Ledger is getting better at reporting it, or I’m getting better at noticing it, or criminals are more persistent in enacting it, but crime in Newark has been in the news just about every day these past couple of weeks.  Here’s a quick rundown of recent events.

  • Sunday, Oct 19: 13-year-old girl is shot in the cheek in Newark. Suspect remains at large.

    A 13-year-old girl is in stable condition tonight after being shot in the cheek in Newark’s East Ward, according to Newark police. The shooting took place at about 7:40 p.m. near the intersection of Parkhurst Street and Pennsylvania Avenue.

  • Saturday, Oct 18: Unidentified man shot and killed in Newark.  Follow up: Despite shooting, store in Newark still opens. Also includes some interesting backstory about the store and its origins in youth programs to get kids to keep from doing these exact crimes.  Suspects remain at large.  Chadwick Ave and Clinton.

    “When I came in this morning to clean the blood up, I said, ‘You know what, life goes on. Shut down because something happened to somebody?’” said McCray, the basketball coach at Central High School. “It’s like you get used to it. It happened. It’s over. Let’s move on. But it’s sad you get used to stuff like this.”

  • Thursday, Oct 16: Shots fired in daytime carjacking on busy Newark street.  Two of the three suspects captured.

    The carjacking occurred shortly before noon in the 100 block of Broad Street when two armed men got out of a Lexus sedan and approached the victim, who was driving a BMW coupe, the detective said.  The robbers fought with the driver, and they soon fled in both cars. However, the Lexus was spotted moments later by Jersey City and Kearny police, McClendon said.

  • Tuesday, Oct 14: Victim is in stable condition after Newark shooting.  No further details, suspect at large.

    The victim was shot at 7:30 p.m. at Ninth Avenue and South 12th Street, Detective Todd McClendon said. The man was shot once in the left side of his abdomen and once in the hip.

  • Monday, Oct 13: 2 arrested in Newark drug bust netting $500K in heroin.  Huge drug bust in the North Ward.

    Detectives said they recovered about $45,000 in cash, a .41-caliber magnum handgun with a red dot scope and a 9mm Smith & Wesson handgun, both loaded, from fish tanks at Carrion’s home and a separate apartment on Ridge Street in Newark. The tanks rise and separate from their bases through a magnetized system, revealing false bottoms that were used to stash the weapons and money, authorities said.

    Each was charged with possession of narcotics with the intent to distribute after detectives found 1,000 packaged “bricks” of heroin, worth about $500,000, in a compartment below the back seat of the Mercedes, Prause said. Investigators found about 42 bricks of heroin in a similar compartment in a Cadillac Seville parked at Carrion’s house, Prause said.

  • Sunday, Oct 12: 30-year-old man fatally shot in Newark.

    Police responding to the shootings shortly after 10:30 p.m. Saturday found a 30-year-old man shot in the head and chest, authorities said. He was taken from the scene at Central Avenue and South Ninth Street to University Hospital, where he died from his injuries.

According to crime statistics (ending Oct 5) at the NPD website, murder has declined 42% and shooting incidents 16%, while aggravated assault and robbery are up double-digits.  Burglary has also increased 32% year to date, which the department attributes to better tracking methodology, rather than an increase in incidents.

New Fire Trucks to be Unveiled Today

Credit: sfd911 on MSN Groups
From City Hall:

The two new trucks are equipped with “Jaws of Life” tools, which means that nine Newark Fire Department truck companies and two heavy rescue units will be equipped with these tools, providing the City with its highest level of coverage ever.

Newark Fire Department rescue teams will be able to respond within 3.5 minutes of any call for “Jaws of Life” assistance from any point in the City of Newark. One truck will go to Ladder 1 on Orange Street, the other truck will go to Ladder 5 on Clinton Avenue.

See the full press advisory after the jump.  The image comes from an MSN Group devoted to the history of the NFD and looks legit.

Continue reading “New Fire Trucks to be Unveiled Today”

Police Solve Mystery: Figure Out What the Chief is Paid to Do

Tentative agreement would end Newark police feud
The agreement struck between the Superior Officers Association and McCarthy appears to cede more day-to-day control to the police director. In exchange, Campos will serve in an emergency management capacity, reporting to the mayor.

Doesn’t seem like the most efficient system, and I question the likelihood that McCarthy wouldn’t continue to have direct authority over the NPD in the event of a disaster of some sort. If it keeps the police focused on the job and not internal politics, though, it’s worth it. Still, Campos pulls down 140k/year: I hope the NPD has a clearly defined agenda for his role when the city is not in a crisis mode to justify that salary.

A long-standing feud in Newark’s police department has ended with an apparent agreement that will give Police Director Garry McCarthy complete control of the police department and move Police Chief Anthony Campos to a policy-oriented job, according to officials with knowledge of the compromise.

The tentative agreement, spurred by a lawsuit that challenged McCarthy’s ability to run the department’s day-to-day operations, is expected to be announced at a news conference Tuesday morning.