As we enter the second decade of this century, there is one city that would like to turn back the clock a few months. Newark, New Jersey laid off 167 police officers in November 2010. Officers who were on desk duty now found themselves out on the streets. Officers who used to work in the North Ward were reassigned to the South Ward. City and police officials stated that there would still be a large police presence on the streets, the newspaper headlines screamed otherwise.
People all over the city have been talking and rehashing the articles in the newspaper as if it were a game of telephone, with the number of crimes and victims growing with each re-telling. To listen to the conversations, you would think that Armageddon started in Newark and would spread to the rest of the state and country. Those with police scanners listened to car chases and reports of carjackings all over the area. Residents of the city ran home from work every night and refused to come out until the next day.
Reality is that, while robberies are up, the Uniform Crime Report statistics (for incidents reported to police) for 2009 and 2010 are very similar. The FBI has been keeping these statistics for years, and these are regularly used by agencies involved in planning for juvenile justice and community-based programming. Unfortunately, these numbers only show half the year.
Now take those numbers, and compare them to the statistics kept by the Newark Police Department. According to the numbers kept by the city, rape, robbery, auto theft, and shooting incidents are all up by double-digit percentage points. And the numbers reported do not include the six people killed and seven wounded after December 12 (the last date of the report). These numbers do not exactly inspire confidence in police effectiveness. After all, the number of incidents was high even before the layoffs happened.
So what’s next for Newark? The Mayor met with the Governor shortly before Christmas. Does this mean that the State Police are going to get involved? Or are they going to heed the call from residents for the National Guard? Either prospect is a negative point for the city and the future of its government.
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Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author and should not be understood to be shared by Being Latino, Inc.