In a recent column in The Star-Ledger, former New York City Police Commissioner and Newark native Bernard Kerik said that Newark Mayor-elect Ras Baraka has an opportunity of a lifetime when he begins his term as mayor. Kerik told NJTV News Managing Editor Mike Schneider that Baraka has an opportunity to fight crime within the city, which will help it succeed.
Kerik said that unless Baraka takes the opportunity to improve public safety, the perception of the city will not change.
“You’re never going to change Newark’s economic development,” said Kerik. “You’re never going to change their real estate values, you’re never going to change the desire for people to live there, work there, go to school there if you don’t get rid of crime.”
Over recent years, the Newark Police Department has seen some cuts where officers were laid off. According to Kerik, about 160 officers were laid off by then Mayor Cory Booker and only 25 were brought back later. Kerik says that the city lost about 150 to 200 officers through attrition and might lose another 200 over the next two to three years.
City officials have said the layoffs occurred because they had to make the cuts to sustain the city financially. In order to solve the problems with crime and address public safety, Kerik said that the city needs to divert funds.
“Put the money into public safety, reduce crime,” said Kerik. “For every percentage point you reduce crime, economic development is going to rise, your real estate value is going to rise, tourism is going to rise. People are going to want to go to school and work there.”
Even if the city could not afford to hire more officers, Kerik said that there are federal programs that can help subsidize the cost. He said the United States Department of Justice offers cops and community orientation programs.
Kerik also said that the city has another issue related to law enforcement — the police department only allows Newark residents to apply for jobs.
“One of the things I see a problem with Newark right now is that the New Jersey Civil Service only allows Newark residents to apply for a job as a police officer in Newark. I think that you have to open that up,” said Kerik.
As for the use of stop-and-frisk, Kerik said that if it is used correctly, the city can be in good shape. If it is abused or used incorrectly, Kerik says it will produce problems. According to Kerik, stop-and-frisk helped lower New York City crime numbers.
Whether some of those methods are used in Newark, Kerik said, “It’s all up to Ras Baraka and I think if he follows that pattern, he can get it done.”