Technology Helps Take a Bite Out of Newark's Crime

Here’s some great news. On May 1, the city of Newark announced that for the first four months of 2009, Newark saw the fewest murders in the city since 1959. In that period, there were 14 homicides compared with 17 for the same period in 2008, a decrease of 18%, and 32 in the first four months of 2006, a 56% drop over the last three years.

The falling levels of murder and violent crime are a testament to the aggressive crime reduction program implemented by Mayor Cory Booker and Police Director Garry F. McCarthy. In one of the nation’s most ambitious experiments in homeland security, Mayor Booker and Director McCarthy have been using a variety of cutting-edge technologies to slash Newark’s violent crime rate.

In a statement, Director McCarthy said the primary cause for the drop was “the men and women of the Newark Police Department” but he also attributed the achievement to “personnel and technological initiatives.” Among the technologies are the computer crime tracking program CompStat, the deployment of 109 surveillance cameras on the streets of Newark, and sonic gunshot detectors that can locate the source of a weapon being fired.

Last August, I wrote about Newark’s ambitious and innovative program in a feature story called “Newark and the Future of Crime-Fighting.”

Mayor Booker’s bigger goal is to use crime reduction to spur an economic renaissance in Newark. The recession has made that goal more difficult. The unemployment rate in the state’s largest city hit 13.3 percent in February, compared to 8.2% for the state, a high not achieved in Newark since 2003—and the highest rate since Mayor Booker took office in November 2006.

Still, Mayor Booker’s growing success at battling crime is an impressive feat, one that should help the city’s turnaround when the economy begins to improve.

-Spencer Ante also publishes the Creative Capital blog. Click here to see more.