CITY OF NEWARK REPORTS FEWEST HOMICIDES SINCE 1959–Police Director Credits “technological initiatives”

Here’s some great news. On May 1, the city of Newark announced that for the first four months of 2009, Newark saw the fewest murders in the city since 1959. In that period, there were 14 homicides compared with 17 for the same period in 2008, a decrease of 18%, and 32 in the first four months of 2006, a 56% drop over the last three years.

The falling levels of murder and violent crime are a testament to the aggressive crime reduction program implemented by Mayor Cory Booker and Police Director Garry F. McCarthy. In one of the nation’s most ambitious experiments in homeland security, Mayor Booker and Director McCarthy have been using a variety of cutting-edge technologies to slash Newark’s violent crime rate.

In a statement, Director McCarthy said the primary cause for the drop was “the men and women of the Newark Police Department” but he also attributed the achievement to “personnel and technological initiatives.” Among the technologies are the computer crime tracking program CompStat, the deployment of 109 surveillance cameras on the streets of Newark, and sonic gunshot detectors that can locate the source of a weapon being fired.

Last August, I wrote about Newark’s ambitious and innovative program in a feature story called “Newark and the Future of Crime-Fighting.”

Mayor Booker’s bigger goal is to use crime reduction to spur an economic renaissance in Newark. The recession has made that goal more difficult. The unemployment rate in the state’s largest city hit 13.3 percent in February, compared to 8.2% for the state, a high not achieved in Newark since 2003–and the highest rate since Mayor Booker took office in November 2006.

Still, Mayor Booker’s growing success at battling crime is an impressive feat, one that should help the city’s turnaround when the economy begins to improve.

Here’s a copy of the press release:

CITY OF NEWARK REPORTS FEWEST HOMICIDES SINCE 1959;
14 KILLINGS IN 2009 SHOW 51 PERCENT CUT SINCE 2006

Mayor Booker and Police Director McCarthy hail statistics but warn:
City must continue to unite to eliminate crime and violence in Newark

Newark, NJ – May 1, 2009 – Mayor Cory A. Booker and Police Director Garry F. McCarthy announced today that the City of Newark has seen the fewest murders in 50 years in the time period between January 1, 2009, and May 1, 2009, with only 14 homicides reported. Between January 1 and May 1, 1959, the Newark Police recorded 11 homicides.

The 14 homicides for the first quarter of 2009 compare with 17 for the same period in 2008, and 32 in the first four months of 2006. Homicides are down 51 percent since 2006. In addition, shooting incidents fell 21 percent to 66 reported incidents in the first 117 days of 2009, and are down 49 percent from 2006.

“These results are tremendously encouraging,” said Mayor Booker in a statement. “We’re in this to win and for Newark that means a continuing reduction in violent crime, until everyone sees that the City is a safe place again. We still have a way to go to do that.”

Director McCarthy attributed several things to the crime reductions, but said the primary cause was “the men and women of the Newark Police Department, who are doing a phenomenal job.”

He also attributed the achievement to a variety of personnel and technological initiatives, including the re-deployment of officers to street patrol, particularly from 7 p.m. to 3 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, when crime is most likely to occur. The percentage of police officers working weekday shifts has fallen from 60 percent to 37 percent since Director McCarthy took over in the fall of 2006.

Director McCarthy also pointed out the influence of his “CompStat” program, which uses computer technology to track crime trends and data. “We can study patterns of crime, and develop systems to improve performance, to deploy resources. Good analysis can address crime problems,” he said. “It’s a vehicle to the solution, not the solution.”

Other technical achievements include the deployment of 109 surveillance cameras on the streets of Newark, acquisition of more computers, and sonic gunshot detectors that can locate the source of a weapon being fired.

Director McCarthy also credited the improved coordination between the Newark Police Department and other county, state, and federal law enforcement agencies in addressing crime, doing so in a strategic and often targeted manner. These have included such measures as the Fugitive Apprehension Team, a centralized Narcotics Squad, and the assignment of State Parole Board officers to each precinct as liaisons, to help track parolees.

Another factor in the Department’s success was the increased involvement of City residents in fighting crime, with such initiatives as the Senior Police Academy, the Clergy-Police Alliance, and the development of the Newark Police Foundation, which operates an anonymous phone tipline that pays $1,000 and $500 rewards for information that leads to arrests and indictments.

“We have seen an increase in morale, as well,” Director McCarthy added. “We have seen officers using less sick time, and we are paying out 45 percent less overtime than three years ago. And I am getting phenomenal feedback from residents, at community meetings, who tell me that they’ve seen great changes in Newark.”

However, Director McCarthy noted that the progress, while gratifying, must continue. “We have to and will keep going in this direction. We have had 20 percent cuts in shootings every year for three years. We will see more improvements,” he said.

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