State troopers have no plans to leave Newark after recent surge in shootings, officials say

By Dan Ivers | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com
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on December 04, 2014

NEWARK — Dozens of state troopers are still assisting Newark police in crime-fighting efforts across the city, and despite a recent rash of violence, officials say the effort has been effective.

The TIDE-TAG program was launched in the city in April, bringing an influx of officers to some of its neighborhoods most plagued by homicides and shootings.

Though Newark is currently experiencing a spike in violence that has claimed eight lives since Nov. 25, officials involved with the program say a broader look at crime statistics show it has proven to be a strong deterrent for such incidents.

As of Nov. 30, 176 people had been shot in Newark since TIDE-TAG launched on April 14, 43 of which proved fatal according to statistics compiled by Attorney General John G. Hoffman’s office. Over the same period during 2013, 181 people were shot, with 63 dying as a result.

For the entire year, gun-related homicides are down 17 percent compared to 2013, and the number of people shot is down 6 percent.

“While spikes in violence are going to occur from time to time, we believe that we are having an impact in reducing violence and we are continuing to search for new ways to deploy our personnel and resources to improve safety and the quality of life for the people of Newark,” said Peter Aseltine, a spokesman for Hoffman.

At a town hall meeting focused on public safety Wednesday night, Newark Police Director Eugene Venable said TIDE-TAG had played a significant role in reducing the rates of murder, shootings and other violent crime in the city this year, even after the turbulent last two weeks.

“It’s been very successful for us,” he said.

In addition to placing more boots on the ground in Newark and other areas of Essex County, TIDE-TAG also aims to place harsher penalties on suspects charged with weapons-related offenses.

Prosecutors have agreed to impose sentences of at least 3 ½ years for defendants in such cases, even under a plea bargain. If those plea offers are rejected, suspects are likely to face up to 10 years behind bars if convicted.

The initiative was first introduced in Trenton in July 2013, and the capital saw a sharp reduction in its murder rate through the remainder of the year.

Trenton suffered 29 homicides in the first 8½ months of 2013, and only eight — including nearly three months without a single homicide between August and November — after the program was launched.

Though officials initially planned to withdraw the troopers from Newark after the traditionally violent summer months, Aseltine said there were no immediate plans for the initiative to come to a halt.

"We are much still in Newark with these initiatives," he said. "We have not set any ending date."

When the program was launched earlier this year, Hoffman said it would be paid for with $2.2 million in state funds, Department of Justice grants and other money seized through criminal forfeitures.

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