Newark’s first ever public safety director aims to tackle city’s high crime rate

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NEWARK, N.J. — Newark is New Jersey's largest city with one of the worst reputations.

Just simply walking or driving through parts of Newark, it's tough not to see an abandoned building, a shuttered storefront, or an arrest happening in broad daylight.

In fact, the numbers tell the story.

In 2015, there were 382 shootings and 105 murders, which is 12 more than the previous year.

The dire situation led Mayor Ras Baraka to come up with a solution. So, he hired the city's first ever public safety director, who oversees the fire, police and emergency management departments.

His name is Anthony Ambrose and was once the police chief and director for the city of Newark from 1999 to 2006.

"I'm a lot more experienced," Anthony Ambrose said.

He's using that experience to immediately tackle the high crime, but with far less resources than ever before.

"You are talking about a police department that has almost 1,700 members and now has 950," Ambrose said.

Ambrose described a typical day as "hell." He has since requested the New Jersey State police to embed themselves in the city to help reduce crime.

He said it's a rather new and successful partnership.

"We speak everyday," Ambrose said. " We share information, everyday. Without them, we would have more issues."

Yet, on the streets of Newark, residents tell PIX11 News they are concerned with the lack of visible police.

"The police are not bad, they just don't have enough of them to do their job," one resident said.

"I have a 14-year-old son. I think it would be better with more police on the street," another resident said.

Ambrose responded to their concerns directly, saying he is looking to put as many officers from administrative and desk jobs back onto the streets and leave them on the street. He also plans to put 24 new detectives focusing on finding criminals already wanted for a crime — something that was not a priority before.

"We're leaving the bad guy on the street," Ambrose said.

The road won't be easy. Ambrose has only been in the position for two months and is looking for the residents of Newark to be patient.