Newark police shuffle ranks, call in reinforcements to combat latest wave of violence

By Dan Ivers | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com
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on August 20, 2015

NEWARK – Dozens of city officers are being pulled out from behind desks and onto the street as officials attempt to ward off the latest surge of violence to envelop the city.

Mayor Ras Baraka announced the redeployments in a statement this afternoon, saying he opted for the move after a 36-hour period during which five people were slain in the city, pushing the total number of homicides for the year to 58.

"The past 36 hours have been wrought with adversity for the City of Newark," he said. "The deaths which have touched our communities underscore the culture of violence which plagues large urban cities - such as Philadelphia, Chicago and Washington, D.C. - and across the nation.

Police Director Eugene Venable said in a text message that a total of 115 officers were being pulled from the department's Real Time Crime Center, intelligence posts and other administrative bureaus in order to increase visibility on the streets.

Joining them will be units from the Essex County Prosecutor's Office and state police – reinforcements Baraka had requested in late July, after city shootings and homicides surged over the summer.

A city-owned helicopter will also be flown over areas experiencing an increase in crime and violence, partnering with the police department's Emergency Response Team to conduct "joint ground and sky operations", Baraka said.


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


Prosecutor's office units will be on patrol 12 hours a day to increase police visibility, while uniformed state troopers will concentrate on the city's border with Irvington – a persistent hotspot for drug and gang activity – 6 days per week, the mayor said.

Essex County Prosecutor's Office Chief of Detectives Anthony Ambrose said his agency began patrolling problematic areas of Newark as part of a 52-officer task force in early August.

Paul Loriquet, a spokesman for the Attorney General's office, said the troopers had already been assigned to Newark, but were typically dressed in plain clothes and focused on investigative and intelligence-gathering activity. Baraka had requested that their activity turn back toward street-level patrols at his press conference last month.

"Overall, our personnel deployment was never reduced, just re-allocated," Loriquet said.

It was unclear how many exactly how many troopers would be deployed as part of the initiative.

Newark Fraternal Order of Police President James Stewart Jr. said city officers were prepared to do whatever was necessary to help stem the newest tide of violence, but stressed that the force was still struggling to recover from 2010 layoffs that decimated its ranks.

"While the former mayor has moved on to bigger things, the citizens of Newark are left holding the bag," he said.

Baraka also acknowledged the department's continuous dearth of manpower, and said the measures announced Thursday further underscored his calls for the city's police academy to be reaccredited in order to expedite the process of getting new recruits onto the street.

"This will allow us to meet the needs of a dwindling force - through retirements and attrition - and provide specific police training for the challenges of complex urban crimes. With our own academy, Newark can produce classes of up to 150 officers each, which is the scope of assistance needed for our force," he said.

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