Newark police tout overall drop in city crime; assaults and rapes on the rise

NEWARK, NJ — The city of Newark announced Thursday that crime in 2018 went down 15 percent overall, when compared to crime in 2017.

The most staggering drop was in carjackings, which decreased by 56 percent year-over-year.

Mayor Ras Baraka says that since his election in 2013, carjackings have been reduced a stunning 86 percent.

"The reality is, crime is going down," he said, while cautioning that progress must still be made. "This is not a victory lap. What we are saying though, it that we've made a tremendous, tremendous leap."

There were 69 murders in the city in 2018, down from 72 in 2017. Shootings decreased by 30 percent.

But aggravated assault increased by 14 percent; there were 1,638 reported assaults in the city in 2018. There were also 165 reported rapes in the city, up 18 percent over 2017.

Successes reported by the department were attributed to new initiatives and partnerships, especially with the community.

William Latimore, a south ward resident, is working to reduce crime in the city.

"I committed crimes in this same city and I changed my life around," said Latimore.

He is now working with the Newark Community Street Team, charged with intervening in tense disputes ongoing around the city before they erupt into violence.

Latimore said the Street Team is currently working on 10 gang conflicts that are brewing in Newark. Interventions include sit-downs to mediate with rival gangs.

"Sometimes, you know, guys might have a gun on them," he said. "And we go in to try and change the dynamics."

In addition to the Street Team, Newark has opened two new police precincts within the last 10 months. They've installed cameras across the city and invited the public to help virtually patrol the streets. They've also launched a mobile 'Hope One' unit, designed to provide support for people struggling with drug addiction. Newark has also partnered city police officers with officers from neighboring departments to help better patrol their shared city borders.

"There no other department in the State of New Jersey that is doing that amount of community work," said Mayor Baraka.

However, there is room for improvement. Newark has been under the watchful eye of a federal monitor ever since a Department of Justice probe revealed frequent use of excessive force and unconstitutional street stops. In October 2018, a 2-year status report praised the department for adding body cameras and new policies, but urged additional training, community engagement and better data collection.

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