By David Cruz
As a member of the city council, Ras Baraka was a vocal critic of his predecessor, calling on then-mayor Cory Booker to take action on violent crime. Today, after the most recent spike in violent crime, this mayor appears to be blaming the messenger — in this case The Wall Street journal — for distorting the situation in the city, calling a story on a spike in shootings here an “incomplete representation and skewed narrative about the efforts that the City of Newark is making to improve public safety.”
The mayor wouldn’t speak to us, But in the last 48 hours, just a week after his much-hyped “Occupy the City” anti-violence rally, a rash of violence has left five people dead, leaving critics — like former mayoral candidate Shavar Jeffries — to suggest that rallies and speeches are simply not enough.
“These type of events are positive. These are great events where you can have great energy and you can have entertainment,” he said. “That’s a good thing, but that’s not a substitute for an effective strategy, that’s not a substitute for building a great team that really executes and nowhere is that a substitute for holding the team you have accountable to produce great results for children, our communities and our families.”
None of the city’s police brass would talk to us today, either. The Police Director found himself in the unenviable position of defending his bad crime stats as not as bad as the Wall Street Journal reported.
There is not an increase of almost 50 percent in shooting incidents or shooting victims, said the statement. As of Aug. 9, shooting incidents stood at a 26 percent increase and shooting victims at a 32 percent increase.
Those stats don’t include the violence of the last 48 hours.
“To tout stats when it comes to crime, it’s a double-edged sword,” said Councilman Anibal Ramos. “You tout successes like he did in the first quarter this year, but it’s a long-term battle, and the summer months are tough.”
The mayor says it’s unfair to present crime stats without providing context. Poverty, unemployment, education, are all complicating factors, he contended.
“We’ve seen in cities, not only in New Jersey but across the country that also deal with issues of poverty and socio-economic disadvantage that with the right strategy executed by the right people with the right accountability around execution were able to produce better results,” countered Jeffries.
The mayor says Newark needs more cops and more help from state, county and federal law enforcement, which he claims have been scaled back this year, which sounds a lot like the kind of thing he often criticized his predecessor for saying. Meanwhile, while violence rocked his city, Baraka was at a fundraiser on Martha’s Vineyard, prompting one critic to wonder what Councilman Baraka might’ve said if his predecessor had done the same thing.
The mayor says the media misrepresents the reality of life in this city, but you can’t debate the reality of five killings in 48 hours, and residents here don’t care whose numbers you use. They just want the killing to stop.