Newark Office of Violence Prevention works to reduce crime in the city

Money from the Newark Police Department is going directly to the Office of Violence Prevention and Trauma Recovery, which aids the police.

Matt Trapani and Chris Keating

Apr 26, 2023, 9:14 PM

Updated 452 days ago

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An effort is underway in the city of Newark to reduce crime and change the violence in the city. This effort seems to be working through the use of the city’s Office of Violence Prevention and Trauma Recovery.
It would be correct to say that Newark is defunding the police. But that money is going directly to those at this office, which aids the police. And in some cases, their social workers are asking police to step aside when they're more qualified.
"We know the terrain. We know the people most times…we know the families and we are able to de-escalate,” says Lakeesha Eure, the director of the office.
The office’s $11 million budget comes from the Newark Police Department. The offices are housed in the precinct where the 1967 riots – now referred to as the “Newark Rebellion” – started.
Eure and her social workers are working in tandem with the police. She recalled a response to a recent suicide attempt.
"As a first responder, I asked them to stand down, let me go first. Let the family go first. And we were able to bring the person out, put them in the ambulance and get them to the hospital,” Eure says.
The Office of Violence Prevention is also helping the victims of crime – victims like Sonia Rogers.
"It's hard being a parent in the city of Newark. It’s very hard, but we do it every single day."
Rogers lost all three of her sons to gun violence but has leaned on those in this new department for help.
“My sons passed away at 21, 21 and 20 years old. For me to be able to walk, talk and get up every day is a struggle of my life,” she says.
This is part of a larger pursuit in Newark to change the culture of crime. Mayor Ras Baraka says he does not adhere to the belief that the way to reduce crime is by locking up more people. He says he considers violent crime to be a public health issue. And like a health crisis, he wants the city to respond with outreach and not necessarily with police officers and handcuffs.
"We don't want to just send police to those hot spots and we do we want to send social workers to those hotspots. We want to send outreach workers to those hot spots, job trainers to those hot spots,” Baraka says.
For any city trying to model this type of initiative, he says police, public health and people need to work together.


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