As 2007 drew to a close, Newark crime numbers look encouraging, says the Newark Star-Ledger. For the first time since 2002, murders are down in New Jersey’s largest city. As of Sunday, there were 98 this year, compared with 107 in all of 2006. In a year marked by the execution-style killings of three college students, Newark was among New Jersey cities where murders either declined or remained the same in 2007; they increased in Camden, Irvington, and Trenton.
Police Director Garry McCarthy attributed the drop in Newark to his overhaul of the city’s crime-fighting strategy. “We have to have the mind-set that every crime can be prevented,” he said. “All you have to do it push the right buttons.” McCarthy, hired by Mayor Cory Booker in 2006, has said all along that Newark’s biggest challenge was its thriving trade in illegal drugs. The majority of the city’s gun violence is related in some way to narcotics trafficking, he says. When drug dealers aren’t battling over product or money or turf, they are armed and poised to shoot someone over something trivial, like an insult. A disturbing recent trend has been an apparent increase in the number of targeted shootings with high-caliber guns — McCarthy calls them “assassinations.”