Baraka blasts article detailing Newark shootings surge as 'incomplete', 'skewed'

By Dan Ivers | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com
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on August 19, 2015

Newark Mayor Ras Baraka, shown here in a file photo, is criticizing a Wall Street Journal article about a rise in city shootings, saying it presented an incomplete and skewed picture of the issue.

 

NEWARK – Mayor Ras Baraka and Police Director Eugene Venable are sharply criticizing a Wall Street Journal article detailing the city's rise in gun violence this year, calling it incomplete and rife with errors.

Baraka, who is not interviewed in the story, issued a statement Wednesday afternoon calling it a calling it "an incomplete representation and skewed narrative" that fails to adequately document the city's efforts to thwart crime and the challenges it has faced during the fight.

He contended that the article, entitled "Shootings in Newark Surge", fails to emphasize that while shootings are up considerably, gun-related homicides are roughly level compared with 2014 rates.

"I have been the first to state that one homicide is one death too many, but crime is not a game of numbers, and when we begin to narrow the conversation to a comparison of statistics, we lose the impact that factors such as crime and poverty have on the culture of violence," he said.

Venable chided the article's author, Kate King, for what he claims are "blatantly misquoted" statistics regarding shootings and homicides in the city. King cites statistics from the State Police Regional Operations and Intelligence Center, which she notes differ from internal numbers that were provided to her by city officials.

The article cites a 45 percent increase in shooting incidents over last year, from 111 to 161. Venable, however, said there have actually been many more shootings than that – 185 to be exact – though that represents an increase of only 26 percent over the 147 recorded as of the same time in 2014.

"Yes, there is an 'uptick' in shootings and our raw numbers may appear more scathing than those King used, but the bottom line is that her numbers present far greater percentages of increases than there actually are," Venable said.

He also took issue with statistics documenting the number of gun-related homicides in the city over the last year. While the article says they have jumped from 41 to 44, Venable claims internal statistics show them at 45 for both 2014 and 2015.

An internal police memo obtained by NJ Advance Media listed the number of shooting incidents for the year at 192 as of Aug. 16, up 25 percent from the year prior. The total number of shooting victims was 236, a 32 percent jump.

A request for comment delivered to the Wall Street Journal's communications office was not immediately returned.

The argument over violence levels comes at an inopportune time for the city, which has recorded 3 homicides over the past 24 hours – two of them gun-related. Those incidents bring the city's overall total for the year to 56, according to the Essex County Prosecutor's Office.

Baraka, who is often critical of media portrayals of the state's largest city, reiterated points he made at a press conference last month, saying the police force had been decimated by a wave of retirements. The reduction had been exacerbated by state police, who had recently been taken off the streets of the city in order to focus on more intelligence-based efforts in the area – a point Venable relayed in the Wall Street Journal article.

The mayor also said the article unfairly cast the rise in Newark alongside reductions in shootings in Paterson and Jersey City, which he said "are not faced with the challenges of a significantly large urban area."

He noted that it failed to mention reductions in crimes such as burglaries, robberies and carjackings, and other efforts aimed at mitigating the city's issues with violence such as his "Occupy the City" rally that drew thousands of residents earlier this month.

"This is the picture of Newark that the Wall Street Journal failed to see...or chooses to ignore," he said.

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