May 5, 2009 By Corey McKenna
Newark Mayor Cory A. Booker and Police Director Garry F. McCarthy last week announced that the city has seen the fewest murders in 50 years in the time period between January 1 and May 1, 2009. Between January and May, the city experienced 14 homicides compared to the same period in 1959 when the city recorded only 11 homicides.
The number of homicides has fallen 51 percent since 2006. 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. 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," Booker said 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."
McCarthy attributed the achievement to a variety of personnel and technological initiatives, including the redeployment 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 McCarthy became director in the fall of 2006.
A contributing factor to that is the city's implementation of CompStat, he said. CompStat is a method of tracking the incidence of crime and adjusting police patrols accordingly. What started in the 1980s with Jack Maple, then a New York City subway cop drawing up maps on butcher paper, has now spread across the nation with similar programs in cities from Baltimore to Los Angeles and smaller cities in between. "[With this tool] we can study patterns of crime, and develop systems to improve performance, to deploy resources. Good analysis can address crime problems," McCarthy said. "It's a vehicle to the solution."
In addition to CompStat, the city has also deployed 109 surveillance cameras as well as sonic gunshot detectors that can locate the source of a weapon being fired.
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 is 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.
These measures have also improved morale at the police department, McCarthy said. "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."