Crime Up But Murder Trend Reversed in Newark

The murder rate in Newark may have increased by about 5 percent in 2011, but Mayor Cory Booker said Wednesday that the upward trend in murders and shootings that began in the city in the summer of 2010 has been reversed.

In the first half of 2011, murders and shootings were both up by 56 percent compared to that same period in 2010. But in the last half of the year the murder rate dropped by 18 percent and shootings were down by 3 percent compared to 2010, according to Police Director Samuel DeMaio. The overall crime rate was up by 16 percent in the first part of 2011 and up by 2 percent from June through December.

 “Where we were going, January through May, if you look at it, if we stayed on that course where we would have been right now,” DeMaio said. “We would have 32 more people dead and countless more people shot.”

DeMaio, who took over the police director position in May 2011, said the trend reversal came as a result of department reorganization and new strategies.

At the beginning of June 2011, the department rolled out its Safe Summer initiative. It included roll calls, where cops get their assignments for the day, in high crime neighborhoods instead of the police precinct, and stricter enforcement of the curfew for minors. Motorcycle, aviation and mounted units were also brought back with the help of other law enforcement agencies, such as the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office.

DeMaio said the department set a record for gun recoveries and gun arrests last year, with 696 weapons taken off the street. And of those seized, 432 were guns confiscated in the second part of 2011, compared to 278 in the same period the year before.

Newark trended downward significantly in the number of crimes in 2008 and 2009, but in June 2010 crime started increasing and continued rising over the next 12 months. Adding to the problem, in December 2010 the department lost 163 officers due to budget cuts.

Eight officers were hired back this month, and the city is in the process of hiring another 17 after receiving a federal grant at the end of last year.

Mayor Booker said 2011, with crime increase in the first five months and a decrease in the following seven months, was “a tale of two years.” He described the trend reversal as “some progress,” but admitted enough has not been achieved.

“There’s not one Newarker, friends of mine, people that I live with, live next to, nobody at all is satisfied in this city with the rate of crime, starting with me,” Booker said.