Bucking the Trend, Newark Gang Activity Fueled by Drugs: Report

Gang homicides in Newark are largely related to drug trade, unlike in other gang violence ridden cities, according to a report from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention released Thursday.

CDC compared gang with non-gang homicides in five cities with above average rates of gang homicides: Los Angeles, Calif., Oklahoma City, Okla., Long Beach, Calif., Oakland, Calif., and Newark, N.J. A total of 856 gang and 2,077 non-gang homicides from 2003 to 2008 were identified in these cities and analyzed.

“Newark was the only city that had a significantly higher proportion of gang versus non-gang homicides that involved drug trade/use,” CDC stated in the report.

Twenty percent of gang homicides in Newark were drug related, compared to only 5.5 percent of non-gang homicides.

“A possible explanation of this divergent finding could be that Newark is experiencing homicides by gangs formed specifically for drug trade,” CDC said.

In Los Angeles and Long Beach less than 5 percent of all homicides were associated with drug trade. According to the report, gang violence largely comes down to retaliatory action opposing gang members take against each other, rather than drug related actions.

Earlier this week, Mayor Cory Booker and Police Director Samuel DeMaio announced murder rate in Newark increased by about 5 percent in 2011 compared to 2010, but an upward trend of 12 months of crime increases since June 2010 had been reversed.

In the second part of 2011, murders dropped by 18 percent compared to the same period in 2010.  Booker attributed the results to the new strategies DeMaio implemented since becoming police director in May 2011, and said the positive trend would continue this year.