In Newark, New Jersey’s deadliest year in a decade, 97 people were killed in 2005, says the Newark Star-Ledger. It was a “sharp turn” from the late 1990s, when killings dipped below 60. Killings are up elsewhere in the state. Irvington, Newark’s much smaller neighbor to the west, reached a new high of 28 murders last year. Trenton, the state’s capital, had a record-breaking year with 31. “This is cause for concern across the state because it’s not just one city and not just a one-year blip in most cases,” said Mike Wagers, director of the Police Institute at Rutgers-Newark.
Experts cite increasingly violent behavior among a small number of career inner-city criminals; the growth of Los Angeles-style street gangs; the continued releases of convicts from prison; and a youth culture in which guns have become an acceptable way to deal with petty beefs. “What we’re seeing in many jurisdictions is a slow reawakening of the core urban street violence that was driving everything so seriously 10 years ago,” said criminologist David Kennedy of the John Jay School of Criminal Justice in New York. “We’re seeing all the same characteristics — it’s happening in small, superheated groups of high-rate offenders, and it’s mostly driven on the street by these guys who are with each other all the time. “It’s very tense, and it’s only a flashpoint away from taking off.”