Skip to main content

Is Newark's Rising April Crime Linked to Police Absence for Puerto Rico Trip?


By: Richard L. Smith 

In the early hours of a seemingly ordinary Saturday morning, the peace of Newark's East Ward came to an end with a stabbing incident that has since become emblematic of a troubling escalation in crime for the beginning of the second quarter across the city.NinosAccording to a statement released by Newark Police officials, at approximately 2:05 a.m., officers responded to a distress call near South and Broad Streets, where they discovered an adult male suffering from multiple lacerations following an altercation.

Director Fragé told RLS Media that the victim was rushed to University Hospital and remains in stable condition with injuries deemed non-life-threatening.

This incident, still under investigation by Newark Public Safety officials, is just the latest in a series of violent occurrences that have unsettled the Newark community throughout April.

(Click HERE for Nye Avenue homicide) 

Despite earlier statistics from the first quarter of 2024 suggesting a decrease in violent crimes—a testament to initiatives spearheaded by The Honorable Mayor Ras J. Baraka—April has witnessed a disturbing spike in violence, including about a dozen shootings–with hits–and two murders.

Compounding the community's anxiety is what they said is the timing of the significant and controversial decision by Newark's Public Safety Director, Fritz Fragé.

Puerto Rico

In a move that has drawn sharp criticism, Fragé authorized a trip to Puerto Rico for himself and 57 members of the police force, including key personnel from the Homicide Unit and Shooting Investigation Team, according to leaders in the community. The visit to Puerto Rico began on April  8th, and officers are expected back on Monday, April 15, 2024. 

Community leaders said, "The absence of these critical staff members occurs as the city grapples with escalating violence, leaving residents and remaining officers in a precarious position."

(Click HERE for South 6th Street Murder) 

Community leaders have voiced strong opposition to the timing of this trip, describing the police department as "gutted and depleted" at a time when their presence is most needed.

The significant reduction in active law enforcement has sparked fears about safety and the city's ability to manage not only ongoing investigations but also preventative measures against further crimes.

Further complicating matters, Newark officials had announced a juvenile safety initiative aimed at curbing juvenile crime by enforcing a curfew that would require minors to be within 100 yards of their homes between 11 p.m. and 5:30 a.m.

However, on April 12, amid a shortage of police officers, this initiative was suddenly postponed, placing the plans to protect the city's youth in uncertainty. RLS Media could not confirm any link between the curfew reversal and the temporary shortage of officers.

Mayor Baraka reiterated the importance of this ordinance and promised a press conference to outline the city's strategies for the upcoming summer.Ninos"This ordinance was enacted in the City of Newark decades ago and has been rolled out annually since its inception," Mayor Baraka said. "We are once again enforcing an ordinance that already exists and will hold a press conference to explain details of this youth safety measure and other programs to ensure summertime safety and enjoyment."

The absence of these officers is part of a broader narrative involving their participation in what has been termed the "Puerto Rico Olympics," a trip reportedly funded mostly by the officers themselves. 

Nevertheless, the timing has raised questions about prioritization and resource allocation, especially during a period of heightened criminal activity.

As the city awaits the return of its officers and the full implementation of its juvenile safety measures, the community remains on edge.

Newark Police officials are now faced with the dual challenge of restoring public confidence and ensuring that their crime prevention and public safety strategies are effective and responsive to the community's immediate needs.

Community leaders said the East Ward stabbing, while isolated, is a reminder of the broader issues at play—a city striving for safety among unforeseen challenges and decisions that city leaders said may have inadvertently compromised its ability to protect its most vulnerable residents.