Newark opened the doors to its newest and 6th precinct, deep in the West Ward in the Ivy Hill section bordering South Orange and Maplewood.
“So we are actually ecstatic to be here this morning,” said Newark Mayor Ras Baraka.
The new precinct fulfills the mayor’s promise as he seeks another term.
“This area hadn’t seen a police precinct in over a century. I think that today is community policing 101, bringing the police to the community in a small geographical area with your own commanding officer, your own executive officer. The officers that only work in this area, you don’t have to share with them going below the Parkway into other areas,” said Anthony Ambrose, director of the Newark Department of Public Safety.
In mid-April, the Public Safety Department will redeploy and station 60 officers and resources to police the diverse area that contributes 9 percent of the city’s crime and violence. It’s home to 30,000-plus residents.
“You have towns in Essex County that aren’t that big that have more police officers,” said Ambrose.
“Public safety is number one. Economic development and everything else is predicated on us being safe and feeling safe,” said Joe McCallum, Newark’s West Ward councilman.
It’s a really big deal for community leaders in the West Ward because they say the precinct has been talked about for years.
“You have to have more vigorous enforcement, and the problem is that they’re riding through, they’re not as engaged as they would be. If we have some people who are fully assigned just to work just up in this area, steadily, then they will get to know who needs to be monitored and who doesn’t,” said Houston Stevens, president of the Ivy Hill Neighborhood Association.
Police did not put a number on response times, but retired police officer Lavita Johnson, who lives there and gets and refers calls to the police department, says it needs improvement.
“The number one concern was time response from the police department. So now with the precinct being right here, it will be shorter, quicker and faster,” she said.
“Response times, there’s not issue with 911 response times. I think they’ll be more proactive up in this area because they’ll have special enforcement, just like all the other precincts,” said Ambrose.
“It’s going to mean a lot for the people in this neighborhood. They’re going to see more presence of police officers, obviously, in their neighborhood. They’ll be able to have more one-on-one relationships with them,” said Baraka.
Police have used the building on Irvington Avenue for years, but not as a precinct and not as a way to improve public safety.
“We’ve been paying to keep the lights and stuff on here, apparently we don’t know why, but now we have a real reason to keep them on,” Baraka said.