Newark police urge homeless residents to be on alert following attacks in NYC, DC
The Newark Police Department is on a mission to protect the city’s homeless population while authorities in Washington D.C. and New York City track a suspect who is violently attacking people who sleep on the street.
It is only a short train ride from Manhattan to Newark Penn Station. The area around the station is a major hub for Newark’s homeless community. Behind Newark Penn is Peter Francisco Park. It is a space that many call home or spend a lot of time in, which is why Newark police officers have blanketed the areas.
The city’s Homeless Outreach Team is out warning homeless residents that they could be in danger.
“We need to get as many people – RWAs, Residents without Addresses – from outside to inside,” says outreach team member Izaiah Hayes Willoughby.
Willoughby is imploring as many people as possible to get off the street and go to the shelter on Miller Street.
“We provide food, clothing, showers, hot meals – anything they need to get them over there,” he says.
Law enforcement officials have released surveillance photos of a suspect wanted in three attacks in D.C. and two in New York over the weekend. Two of the victims have died and three others were injured.
“If people in the city are driving by and they see someone who appears to be disturbing someone asleep on the sidewalk, we need that reported immediately,” says Newark Police Director Brian O’Hara. “It’s potentially an emergency.”
Police patrols are noticeable around Newark Penn, Peter Francisco Park and local shelters. Some police are uniformed, while others are intentionally not in uniform to ease those who may be wary.
Officials say that the attacks in D.C. and New York appear to be connected. O’Hara says he is also concerned about copycat attacks on the homeless. A motive is not known, but all the attacks appear to be similar.
“In all of these incidents, it appears they are happening – they are targeting folks simply because they’re sleeping on the street. That is incredibly disturbing,” O’Hara says.
The police director says some people have agreed to relocate to shelters to be safe. He says officers will continue to convince others within the homeless population who may be reluctant to leave.