Friday, April 2, 2010

Isn't This Just Fantastic?!

Newark's First Murder-Free Month Since '66
by Matt Kelley

It's a good day in Newark.
One of America's most crime-plagued cities has recorded its first calendar month without a homicide in more than four decades. It may sound like a macabre milestone to be celebrating, but progress has to start somewhere, and it's encouraging to see these green sprouts in a city that has been written off by so many.

Newark Mayor Cory Booker (left) deserves a big piece of the credit. Booker, who last night was celebrating the achievement by quoting Nelson Mandela on Twitter ("It always seems impossible until it's done"), has made crime reduction a central piece of his administration. He's launched regular citizen night patrols, and usually walks the streets along with residents. He's the kind of sleeve-rolling mayor our embattled cities need. If you haven't seen the fantastic documentary Street Fight, you may not know the depth of this guy's resolve. Watch it this weekend -- I guarantee you'll come away with a dose of respect for Newark's tough, innovative young mayor. And check out Booker tonight on the Rachel Maddow Show, where he'll be discussing the city's milestone.

Newark still has a long way to go, of course. Murders dropped sharply from 2007 to 2008 but then rose again to 2009. The city's murder rate is 3.8 times the national average, while the violent crime rate is 1.6 times higher than the norm. But the small steps will continue.

Police Director Garry McCarthy says the next milestone is just two weeks away: a 43-day stretch that would make for the city's longest murder-free streak since 1961.

Today's turning point is a hopeful moment, and I'll leave you with a video of Booker at one of the recent night patrols, asking residents: "What Gives You Hope?" (via Global Grind). Does Newark's accomplishment make you feel hopeful? Tell Mayor Booker how you feel on Twitter.

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But Don't Jack My Genuis