NEWARK, NJ — On June 24, Mayor Ras Baraka celebrated the passage of a City Council ordinance creating a permanent Office of Violence Prevention.
“The Office of Violence Prevention now, by law, is an integral part of the city of Newark,” Baraka said. “It is officially part of the public service architecture, like any other social service we are duty-bound to offer.”
The office will initially be funded by 5 percent of the Public Safety budget, or about $12 million.
The mayor made the announcement on the steps of Newark Police Division’s 1st Precinct, which was the 4st Precinct in 1967, where the historic rebellion began.
The ordinance calls for the precinct to be closed by Dec. 31, 2021, and transitioned into a museum chronicling local activism in Newark and positive police changes, a trauma center for the health recovery and healing, workforce development, as well as the Office of Violence Prevention and the headquarters for the Anti-Violence Initiative.
“It is symbolic that this building will now become a place of healing,” Baraka said. “It will be a representation of the progress we have made as a peaceful community, and the positive advances made by our police division to suppress crime by being engaged with the community, not alienated from it.”
Public Safety Director Anthony Ambrose spoke to those advances, citing statistics of sharply declining homicides, overall crime and citizen complaints.
“I think we are the model for the police reforms people are talking about across the nation,” Ambrose said. “Through our community engagement programs, the partnerships with the anti-violence coalitions the mayor started, and our dedication to transparency and proper, constant training, we have rebuilt the trust we need with the community to create a safer city.”
The mayor praised the City Council’s “forward thinking” in outlawing hate group activity, aimed at white supremacy groups which will now be labeled as “terrorists.”
“We must stand up forcefully against racism and have the courage to take on the legal challenges an ordinance such as this will attract,” Baraka said.
Newark Corporation counsel Kenyatta Stewart, who drafted the ordinance, concurred.
“We will welcome challenges to the ordinance,” he said. “You can’t enjoy free speech when you can’t breathe and our first human right is to be able to live. Laws change as any society progresses. Slavery was outlawed. Women now have the right to vote. It’s time we reconsider hate speech as a right and instead look at the conditions it promulgates.”