Newark's leaders are starting to talk sense -- maybe big time.

Early this year we criticized Newark, New Jersey's new mayor, Cory Booker, and the city's police director, Garry McCarthy, for a law enforcement-focused response to the city's drug trade problem, the formation of a new narcotics task force. I actually say "we criticized" in the literal sense, as we appear to have three pieces on the topic -- a Chronicle article by Phil, a blog post by Scott, and an editorial by myself -- all published on the same day:
http://stopthedrugwar.org/chronicle/468/newark_new_orleans_drug_war_crackdown_crime_murder (Chronicle article) http://stopthedrugwar.org/prohibition_in_the_media/2007/jan/09/irony_new... (blog post) http://stopthedrugwar.org/chronicle/468/newark_drug_force_wont_achieve_i... (editorial)
Booker did say some good things at the time:
"These men are not saints who have died, but they are our sons... Take away my tie, take away my suit, and about 10 years, and I fit that description: young black men dying in our city at rates that are unacceptable."
But as I pointed out in my editorial:
If the people doing the fighting are members of our collective family, to be rescued where possible from a negative environment that has lured them into a criminal lifestyle, why is the centerpiece of the new effort a law enforcement campaign that can only end with the long-term incarceration of many of "our sons"? Youthful confusion and feelings of desperation don't magically end after 17 years and 365 days, and New Jersey's drug laws for adults are harsh, as are federal drug laws. How many of "our sons" will end up in prison for long periods of time, sent there because of this new program?
An article by Tom Moran in the Newark Star-Ledger this weekend has some very interesting comments from both McCarthy and Booker. McCarthy points out the city's homicide rate -- 105 last year -- is the highest in over a decade, even though every other kind of crime has really dropped off. McCarthy is "perplexed," he told Moran. Booker's talk was pretty tough, but it was the kind of tough talk that we like here:
"The drug war is causing crime," Booker says. "It is just chewing up young black men. And it's killing Newark."
According to Moran, Booker likened heavy jail terms and unforgiving policies toward those who have been released to an economic genocide against African American men in his city that is giving Newark's crime wave thousands of new recruits. He wants to state's mandatory minimums to go, at least in their current form -- New Jersey's drug laws are harsh -- and he says that he's ready to fight it out:
"I'm going to battle on this," the mayor says. "We're going to start doing it the gentlemanly way. And then we're going to do the civil disobedience way. Because this is absurd. "I'm talking about marches. I'm talking about sit-ins at the state capitol. I'm talking about whatever it takes."
Let's hope he means it -- kudos in any case for saying such things. In the meanwhile, though, I do have a few questions:
  1. Is the narcotics task force he talked about in January operating, and if so, what exactly is it doing?
  2. Is the city doing everything it can to prevent these young men from ending up in the clutches of the state's harsh sentencing regime -- through policing prioritization, prosecutorial discretion, etc.?
  3. What about ending prohibition? It's not just that people are angry and hopeless, it's also the money in the illegal drug trade that is getting so many people recruited into lives of crime and paying them to stay there. Only legalization can break that link.
Check out the article, there's lot's more good stuff there. When you're done, send the Star-Ledger a letter to the editor. Congratulations to Mr. Moran for authoring such an important and insightful report.
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Newark's Problem

I have just moved to Newark from NYC. I live in the south ward (Wick-Way as my nieghbors pronounce it) and I love my home. The problem is the low influx of working families.

All of the working families on our block are good people that tend to their homes and are considerate becasue they want to be. These are the very people that can change this city and remove the blanket of shame that pervades its streets. From what I have observed its the Section 8 properties that bring the neighborhood down. They have a tendency to be very loud, inconsiderate, unclean, their kids are out at all hours of the night, the litter and up-keep of the properties is horrible, and they really have no respect for anyone.

As long as these properties allow Section 8 families Newark is going to have a problem with attracting new citizens. Working families have an effect on a neigborhood; they will not accept drug dealing, they do not turn a blind eye to crime in their eyes, and if they are not from the area they don't have a relationship with the perpetrators and are willing to call the authorities. Also, they take care of their properties. If a block is ran down and littered it fits the profile for a "hot block" but it's well taken care of their is a tendency to believe that the folks on this block give a sh*t and I'll take my drug business somewhere else.

I am in the process of establishing a homeowner association on my block to empower the good folks that live here. Hopefully we can make a difference. Lastly, I think that the kids on probation and those that are performing community service as part of their punishment should assist with cleaning up the streets.

Just my two cents as a newbie to the area.

Weequahic

That South Ward neighborhood you refer to is pronounced "Week-Quake."

Newark's problem is nationwide

Our local county attorney started a special task force to save our children from the "meth scourge". They do this by launching grenades into homes where they know that children are sleeping, by using battering rams to break down doors when they know that children are inside. They break in, wearing riot gear and ski masks (the better to terrorize) wave their assault rifles in children's faces and hold them at gunpoint while they ransack the place. Then they "protect" these innocent victims by charging their parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles with a variety of crimes against children, causing them to be placed in foster care, to be (perhaps) cared for by strangers, or (also likely) to be housed with older, but still juvenile, sexual predators.
The truth is that our elected leaders really don't give a damn about our children, except for their value as pawns in their immoral, illegal war.

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