The city of Newark celebrated the opening of its new 6th precinct boosting its police presence in the city’s West Ward. The building that will now house the precinct was previously used for special operations. Mayor Ras Baraka says it will now act as a fully functioning precinct, something residents had been asking for, for decades.
“In essence what we’re doing is right-sizing what we believe the police representation should be in this area of the city. And the city is very, very, very big, and so you have officers driving from one part to the next part to try and maintain some modicum of control, and this makes it easier for them to do that.”
Houston Stevens is president of the West Ward’s Ivy Hill Neighborhood Association. Stevens says they’re glad to see the building finally operating as a precinct, adding that’s its long overdue.
“You have to have more vigorous enforcement, and the problem is that they’re riding through and they’re not as engaged as they would be, (If) we have some people who are fully assigned to work just up in this area, steadily, then they will get to know who needs to be monitored and who doesn’t.”
Public Safety Director Anthony Ambrose says its been over a century since this area of the city has had it’s own precinct and its something he’s envisioned accomplishing for years.
“Nine percent of the calls come from this area, and its about thirty thousand residents, and there’s towns (that size) in Essex County that have more cops, you take a Belleville, or East Orange, or a Nutley, so I think its something that’s long overdue, and it’s something the Mayor had mandated when I got here.”
Ambrose says while the city is still working to recover from massive police layoffs under now U.S. Senator and former Mayor Cory Booker’s watch back in 2010, the department still managed to make the new precinct a reality.
“The four hundred officers that we’ve hired in the last four years helps, and last class with one hundred twenty-two definitely helps, but what happens is its just smaller geography, and re-assigning officers the geographical areas, and that's basically community policing 101.”
Ambrose says response times in the area were previously prioritized through 911 calls, and says the new precinct will help address the issue. Retired Newark police officer and Ivy Hill resident Lavita Johnson agrees.
“The number one concern was time response from the police department so now with the precinct being right here it will be shorter quicker and faster.”
Mayor Ras Baraka, who’s up for re-election in May, says residents of the West Ward can expect to see immediate and tangible changes.
“They’re going to see more presence, obviously of police officers in their community, they’ll be able to have more one on one relationships with them and they’ll be able to be more pro-active as opposed to responding.”
The 6th Precinct will be staffed by approximately 60 police officers, including two Community Service Officers.