The Star Ledger
NEWARK — Tonight Newark Police Director Eugene Venable and Chief Anthony Campos were leading a group of clergymen and concerned residents along Bergen Street when they stopped to tell Johnie Caulton that officers planned to play a larger role in patrolling city’s violent neighborhoods.
“You’re gonna take back the community?” Caulton asked as he sat in a jeep parked outside his auto body shop.
“We are,” Campos said.
The exchange was one of many that police officials hope to have over the next several months as they try to improve relations between the department and the community.
City officials announced today the department would start taking “neighborhood walks,” during which police officers, representatives from city agencies, members of the clergy and civic activists walk around various sections of the city and talk to residents about the problems in their neighborhoods.
“What we’re doing is putting more police on the street,” Venable said. “It will help in the future keep crime down.”
The department also plans to shift their regular roll calls — when they take stock of personnel and address the day’s incidents — outside for the remainder of the summer, officials said.
In the long term, city leaders envision having at least 70 percent of the approximately 1,000-member police force patrolling the streets.
The initiatives are part of a long-term strategy to increase the visibility of a police on the street.
“There is no one magic bullet,” Campos said at press briefing in the South Ward. “There are many things that we’re doing.”
The changes in the police department arrive as most types of crime in the city during the first half of this year have declined compared with the same period last year, according to recently released statistics.
Robberies declined by 20 percent, from 1,223 by the end of the week of July 13, 2013, to 982 this year, the department said; similarly, auto thefts dropped from 1,766 at this point in 2013 compared with 1,415 this year.
Smaller reductions were also seen in aggravated assault, burglary and theft, the department said. And with 46 homicides by the end of last week, the murder rate remained unchanged from last year.
The number of rapes increased this year, however, up to 23 so far this year compared with 22 during the same period last year, the statistics showed.
The new efforts were welcomed by Caulton, who said he had been worried by some of the crimes reported in the newspapers and on TV.
“I feel good,” he said. “They’re gonna get it straightened out.”