Monday, February 18, 2008


A dubious milestone

The city of Newark, New Jersey, has reached a spot where they haven’t been for about forty-five years: as of Friday, they had a period with no murders that’s the longest such period since 1963. And how long do you think that period is? Just over a month, thirty-three days:

As the weekend approached, with its promise of gunplay, law enforcement officials said Friday that they had passed a new threshold: 33 days without a murder, the longest stretch since 1963, when there were no homicides for 40 days.

As of last night, there had been two homicides this year; by this time last year, there had been 12. The number of shootings has also decreased, the Police Department said. In 2007, there were 99 homicides in this city of 281,000.

Residents who were interviewed were surprised:

In a dozen interviews, residents reacted with surprise, and in some cases disbelief, to the news that the murder rate had started to fall. People here, betrayed by the city’s past violence and taught to mind their own business, said they had simply not noticed that part of January and February had, in fact, been murder-free.

It’s sad to think that a month without a murder is something to crow about, especially in a place whose population isn’t really that large. It’s also sad to think that the public gets so inured to the pattern that frequent murders feel normal to them. Still, it’s a significant change from where they’ve been, and I hope it continues.

Update, 27 Feb: After 43 days, Newark's murder-free period ended last night, with the shooting of a young man at a bodega.

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