Newark wants help from state police in effort to fight crime

By Vernal Coleman | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com
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on February 03, 2016

Mayor Ras Baraka addresses questions at a Wednesday press conference announcing the initial steps in the city's new plan to reduce violent crime.

 

NEWARK — As the city's longstanding fight against violent crime continues, officials are again seeking aid from the New Jersey State Police, authorities announced Wednesday.

Public Safety Director Anthony Ambrose said he's requested a compliment of state police uniformed officers and investigators, who if the request is granted would spend a six-month stint working directly in Newark's toughest neighborhoods.

The exact number of state police officers who could potentially be reassigned to Newark is unclear, Ambrose said.

In 2014, New Jersey State Troopers patrolled Newark as part an initiative designed to help local cities break waves of street violence.

The request is just one of several initial steps being taken as part of the city's new plan to reduce violent crime.

The nine-point plan, which Ambrose said he began developing shortly after being installed as public safety director in December, was rolled out Wednesday morning. The plan focuses on the department's enforcement and investigative operations, both of which are lacking, Ambrose said. 

Twenty police detectives have been reassigned to the department's major crimes unit to enhance investigations of reported shootings, which last year increased by over 10 percent.

The move comes on the heels of another wave of violence in Newark, as seven people were killed in the span of seven days.

Twenty-nine officers have already been reassigned to units working directly in the central, south and west wards, where Ambrose said the majority of the city's violent crime occurs.

The plan also calls for reviews of the department's internal affairs and communications units, and additional officer reassignments.

Ambrose said he's also received approval to hire 150 new police officers over the course of the next 18 months.

By putting additional officers onto the streets, Ambrose said he believes the department will be better able to "control crime so that people feel safer."

"It's not going to happen immediately," he said. "[Crime reduction] it's going to take time. We ask the public to be our partners."

While the plan stops short of offering specific goals for crime reduction, Ambrose said simply having more officers on the street could stem the violence.

Mayor Ras Baraka, who also appeared at the press conference, said the administration has set crime reduction goals, but declined to provide details. "We don't want to make expectations that are unrealistic," he said. 

Whatever the goals may be, Baraka said the police department will not realize them without the public's help.

"If i could just get people in the city to be as irritated about homicide as they were about the snow," he said. "I want us to turn that energy into reporting some of these criminals that are making our communities unbearable."

To that end, Baraka touted the various community engagement initiatives included in the plan, which appears to have support from the department's rank and file officers.

"The mayor is right about this not just being a police issue," said Newark Fraternal Order of Police President James Stewart. "We need to work with the community to get the answers we need. We're on the right path."

Following the announcement, Ari Rosmarin, NJ-ACLU Public Policy Director, raised tempered concerns about the new surge in enforcement.

"Along with that surge, we're going to have to see a surge in accountability as well," he said. "We need to make sure that the police department as it moves aggressively and cracks down on violence keeps residents safe also protects their rights."

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