Newark Officials Update Plan to Combat Violence as Murder Rate Rises

By Brenda Flanagan

Inside a bullet-riddled car, Newark cops found the city’s 26th murder victim a week ago, pushing 2016’s homicide rate to three more than last year, so far — with the long, hot summer yet to unfold. City officials acknowledged the numbers, even as they updated an ongoing 45-day plus plan to combat violence.

“We’re here, not to claim victory. But we’re here to claim progress,” said Public Safety Director Anthony Ambrose.

Ambrose acknowledged the murders, but said shootings are down 16 percent and noted 36 new officers have been assigned to foot patrols.

“And I’m not looking for these officers to come back to tell me how many arrests they made or how many summonses they gave out. I want them to talk to the community and bring back some of the community’s complaints,” Ambrose said.

Complaints like these.

“When we dial 911, we want a response. And that’s still not happening. And with more people moving into Newark, more infrastructure going up, we still don’t have enough. And I don’t understand why we’re not putting pressure on the state,” said community activist Donna Jackson.

Ambrose said he had heard about that.

“Three major things upset me and we’re going to do better. The first was, not answering the phones, when they call the police; not responding, because of that. Thirdly, no follow-up when a victim of a crime reported it — they never heard from a detective. That will stop,” he said.

Ambrose listed accomplishments: adding 16 detectives to the Major Crimes Unit yielded more arrests and reorganizing the Internal Affairs Unit to comply with a federal consent decree will hopefully reduce misconduct.

They’ll soon relaunch the department’s website to include up-to-date crime data. The next crime-fighting phase will implement 100 new police body cams, introduce TASERS as a less lethal alternative to subdue suspects, conduct more community meetings and assign a Compliance Officer to each precinct.

“And we want them to treat the people in the neighborhood like they’re the neighbors that live across the street from them,” said Mayor Ras Baraka.

As for department morale, the public safety director admits not everyone’s happy. He says we’re asking a lot of these officers. The mayor says if he had a magic button, he’d have pushed it already.