Newark mayor's race: Ras Baraka rolls out his public safety plan

By James Queally/The Star-Ledger
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on October 10, 2013

Newark City Councilman and 2014 mayoral hopeful Ras Baraka, seen here in a file photo, listed more community initiatives and gang intervention as key components of his public safety plan.


NEWARK — Speaking to a packed room of more than 100 supporters inside a city library, Newark Councilman and 2014 mayoral hopeful Ras Baraka unveiled his public safety agenda today, a plan heavy on social improvements and gang intervention.

Flanked by former Gov. Richard Codey and Councilwoman Mildred Crump, Baraka said he will establish a gang interdiction program known as "Project Chill" and call for police to concentrate their efforts in the high-crime South and West wards, something he said has been lacking in recent months.

"I asked the police director ... (with) all the resources you have, why are they not here?" Baraka asked to cheers from the crowd.

North Ward Councilman Anibal Ramos Jr., another mayoral hopeful, unveiled his public safety plans earlier this week. Former assistant Attorney General Shavar Jeffries and Central Ward Councilman Darrin Sharif, the other candidates vying to replace Cory Booker in 2014, have yet to announce their platforms.

"Project Chill," which bears some resemblance to the "Project Ceasefire" that has helped lower the crime rate in Boston and was endorsed by Booker earlier in his term, would focus on aggressive police responses against gang sets and offer employment assistance to gang members who want to get out of the life.

Baraka said he also wants to open literacy facilities called "Centers of Hope" and institute mentoring programs for children as young as 5 so city officials can help steer them away from the gang life.

Baraka said he also wants code enforcement officials and fire department personnel to visit the neighborhoods in the South and West wards to deal with the condemned buildings and vacant lots that sometimes serve as havens for criminal activity.

"The environment is conducive to the disease," he said.

Seeming to take a jab at Ramos' plan to offer more money to patrol officers, Baraka said he would find other ways to improve police presence.

“They don’t need more incentives," he said. "That’s like telling the teacher we’re going to pay you more money if you give the kids homework.”

Ramos campaign spokesman Bruno Tedeschi wasted little time touting his own candidate's public safety strategy.

"When voters compare public safety plans, we are confident they will find the Ramos plan will actually make Newark a safer city," Tedeschi said via e-mail. "Our comprehensive plan calls for real change in the police department and at the same time calls for a host of initiatives to keep our youth out of trouble."

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