Newark saw a 6 percent increase of overall crime and a slight uptick in homicides in 2011 compared to 2010, officials announced Wednesday.
New Jersey's largest city tallied 90 murders last year, up four from 2010. So far this year, it has recorded four homicides, down from six this time last year, Newark Police Director Samuel DeMaio said. Shootings in the first five months of 2011 were up by 56 percent, but finished flat for the year, he said.
There was a surge, however, in gun recoveries with 432 of 696 total seized within June through December 2011, compared to just 278 during that same time the year before.
"How many of those guns … saved a shooting? How many of those guns we recovered saved someone from being murdered?" he said.
DeMaio, who inherited last May a police department beset by layoffs, said Wednesday the department was in desperate need of restructure following former director Garry McCarthy's departure. DeMaio reestablished the position of police chief in July and also restored the mounted police, marine and aviation units.
During his tenure, DeMaio has touted community involvement as crucial to combating crime in the city. Last summer, he created a partnership between Mayor Cory Booker and community and clergy leaders across the city to enact the "Safe Summer Initiative," a holistic approach to quashing crime during the hottest - and deadliest - months of the year in Newark.
Lately, more and more residents are dialing Newark Police Department's anonymous Crime and Gun Stoppers tiplines, too, he said.
"I believe under this leadership, we are doing more with less," said Booker, referring to the 162 police officers laid off in 2010.
Booker said more "game-changing strategies" to combat crime, including a youth mentoring program with Newark police officers and firefighters, will be announced in the coming months.
"I do believe crime is a symptom of a larger problem," said Booker. "As we saw last week, when a 16-year-old picks up a weapon, shoots people and murders people – this is not a police problem. This is a larger problem within our community, state and nation."
The Newark Police Department recently rehired eight previously laid off officers, with plans to reinstate 17 others as soon as possible, DeMaio said. Ten officers were promoted to higher ranks Wednesday, prompting an outcry from the local police union to hire more instead of adding supervisers.
"It's my belief that we don't need any more supervisors," said Derrick Hatcher, president of the local Fraternal Order of Police, which represents officers below the rank of sergeant. "We need the officers for the front line. Our police department making decisions like this, (it) doesn't do anything for the communities and businesses we serve."