Newark police unveil new tactics to combat surge in shootings, illegal guns
The Newark Police Department has implemented a new violence reduction initiative following a surge in shootings over the last month. But Public Safety Director Brian O’Hara says that officers alone won’t solve Newark’s crime problem.
“We have too many illegal guns on the street and they’re in the hands of people who lack conflict resolution skills,” O’Hara says.
O’Hara is a veteran Newark police officer who has been the city’s public safety director for less than a year. He says that the pandemic crime wave that began in late 2020 has continued.
“Something is happening in society because of what we’re going through,” O’Hara says. “We’ve had more death here. We’ve had more people sick. We’ve had significant economic problems here. As well as all the regular stuff – schools being closed for a year and a half, a lack of regular activities for young people. All of that has played a role.”
There have been 54 murders in Newark so far this year – one more than in all of 2020. It is still half of the number of murders Newark saw prior to Mayor Ras Baraka’s administration. O’Hara says that it will take more than police officers to make the city safer.
“We could have 2,000 cops in this city. We could have twice as many cops as we have now. We are never going to have enough police officers to get us out of this problem. That's the bottom line,” he says. “It's totally, you know, myopic to think that cops, more cops, are the answer to this problem. And us just going out in the communities and arresting more people is going to change these root causes, because they're not.”
The latest violence reduction initiative will involve social workers from the new Office of Violence Prevention and Trauma Recovery and members of the Newark Community Street Team, looking to interrupt violence and reprisals.
“Five percent of the budget was reallocated last year to create the Office of Violence Prevention. But what that did was that created an army of social workers for the police to tap into,” O’Hara says.
There will be uniformed officers visible on the streets in places like downtown on Broad Street. But O’Hara says there will also be undercover officers. Newark police will work with the New Jersey State Police and federal agencies to track down illegal and ghost guns.
“This is a statewide and national issue, this increase in gun violence. This is happening everywhere,” O’Hara says.
Police officers will also have devices to give them access to the city’s surveillance camera and gunshot detection system.
Anyone with information about shootings and homicides in Newark can call police at 1-877-NWK-TIPS.