Newark Crime at a Tipping Point?

New York Times: The News? No Bad News for 4 Weeks in Newark, if Murders Are Your Guide

On Monday, police officials said that for the first time since Nov. 10, 1998, Newark had gone four weeks without a homicide, a milestone that had the police director, Garry F. McCarthy, cautiously speaking about it as if a corner had finally been turned.

“There seems to be a leveling off,” he said.

“We were frustrated last year,” he said. “We reduced the shooting numbers, but we didn’t see a commensurate drop in murders. Now, we’re seeing the effects of all things we put into play.”

The work of the Booker administration and the NPD has been paying off as crime has been reduced across the board. Anecdotally, I’ve seen this as well: where once the Ironbound seemed to be underpatroled (often, days would pass between squad car sightings in 2005), we now see cops regularly patrolling the streets and near the nightclubs up on Ferry Street.

I’m embarrassed to admit that I was just pulled over the other night myself. I was using my cell phone as I pulled around the corner of my block, without a headset. A patrolman gave me the siren, pulled alongside my car and asked why I was on the phone. Whoops. I gave him a lame excuse and he let me go.

But, wow: I’ve been living in Newark for over three years, and was studying at Rutgers and NJIT before that for four years — driving in the city for over seven years, all told. Not once did I ever expect to be pulled over by the NPD for something as simple as using a cell phone while driving. This police department feels different, though. More active, more involved.

The key question here: has Newark reached a tipping point? Booker was proud to drop this stat during his State of the City, but no doubt it came at the expense of some serious intensity he’s brought to the Newark Police these past few weeks. Can we keep the momentum?

I hope so. If the city can maintain a low murder rate for 2008, this will truly be one of the city’s best years in decades.

Author: Ken Walker

Husband, Father, Newarker, PCA Elder, Business Analyst. In a glass case of emotion since 1978.

4 thoughts on “Newark Crime at a Tipping Point?”

  1. Ken! Using a cellphone without a headset while driving in the Ironbound?!? I’m shocked. You do know that taking a hand off the wheel to hold a cellphone while driving has been ILLEGAL IN THE ENTIRE STATE OF NEW JERSEY since July 2004, don’t you? A lot of people don’t. But unless Newark has its own ordinance, stricter than the state law, the police exceeded their authority if they pulled you over only for that: http://www.behandsfree.com/thelaw.aspx. The state law allows a fine only if you are pulled over for some other reason. I would be especially careful to use my hands-free headset in a place like the Ironbound (if I’m expecting a call, I place it in my ear before heading out; if I’m not expecting a call, I just let any call go to voicemail). The Ironbound’s heavy traffic, lack of traffic lites at many busy intersections, and pedestrians carelessly stepping out from between parked cars makes full attention important. Newarkers are notorious for paying no heed to personal safety in the streets, but treating the streets like extra-wide sidewalks. This is something the police SHOULD be cracking down on, because it has given us a high pedestrian death and injury rate. But we cannot permit the police to exceed their authority, and unless a Newark ordinance permits the police to make a traffic stop for a cellphone violation alone, anyone ticketed under such a circumstance should challenge the ticket in court and send a message that we want police protection, not police abuse.

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  2. Craig, you’re totally right, and I shouldn’t have been on the phone. Typically I do use a Bluetooth hands-free headset, but I didn’t have it handy at the time. Regardless, I should have waited on making the call.
    I don’t think the officer exceeded his authority, though: he didn’t engage his emergency lights, step out of the vehicle or ask me for my paperwork — just asked me the question. He made his point, I think, without pushing any legal boundaries.
    Lesson learned.

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  3. Note that will no longer be the case – as of March 1 state laws will tighten up and the police can pull you over just for cell phone use – fine $100.

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