By Karen Yi
One police precinct staffed with 60 officers to cover 30,000 residents is big news for a community that has been without it for a century.
On Tuesday, Newark’s Department of Public Safety announced the opening of the 6th police precinct in the Vailsburg section of the West Ward — in what officials hailed as a milestone for the city.
“It was overdue,” Public Safety Director Anthony Ambrose said. “This area hasn’t seen a police precinct in over a century.”
“We are very excited about this,” added Mayor Ras Baraka. The city also plans to open a 7th precinct along the North and West wards.
The 6th precinct located at 491 Irvington Avenue in the Ivy Hill Park area will staff about 60 officers under a newly minted Commanding Officer, Capt. Lee Douglas. The neighborhood is responsible for about 9 percent of crime and violence in the city, Ambrose said.
There were 70 homicides in Newark last year — about a 28 percent drop from the year prior, according to city-provided numbers. But, non-fatal shootings increased with an additional 75 people shot, about a 27 percent increase when compared to 2016, according to the statistics.
The buildings for the 6th precinct and what’s now the 1st precinct in the Central Ward were both built in 2005 but the administration at the time decided not to open them as precincts, Ambrose said. Baraka opened the 1st precinct in 2014 and the 6th will open officially on April 16.
Ambrose said the 6th precinct would bring about community policing by concentrating officers in “a small geographical area.”
West Ward Councilman Joseph McCallum said it was a major step forward for the community.
“Public safety is number one. Economic development, everything else is predicated on us being safe,” he said. “We promised it would happen, it hadn’t happened in many, many years since this building was here. It happened through partnerships, mutual respect and understanding what the community needs are.”
Aristide Economopoulos contributed to this report.