Tuesday, September 10, 2013


They all know her, community activist Donna Jackson, all the cops, especially the homicide detectives. Because when they get called out on a scene in Newark, they can count on her presence too. Consoling grieving family members, prodding residents to keep the pressure on City Hall, hugging the cops and fretting about their safety. We met again here at the latest homicide, on Lyons Ave., at the corner of Dewey Street. The scene is just a couple blocks from a double shooting a couple weeks ago which accounted for the first homicide of 10 in 10 days. A series of murders that put Newark's crime problem on the radar at a time when its camera-ready mayor, Cory Booker, is busy running for the U.S. Senate. "Acting Hollywood," as Jackson puts it.

Jackson's beef isn't with the cops. It's with a city that doesn't have enough cops on the street.

"I hear the cops calling for backup on the radio all the time," Jackson says, "and the dispatcher saying, 'no cars available.' What do they mean no cars available? There's no excuse for this."

It's a real problem. By Jackson's count, the city's down 700 officers. But one cop says, when he got on the job, there were 16-hundred officers. There's now 800. Down half.

Jackson says Newark needs help. Outside help. If Booker can't do anything about the crime, then Gov. Chris Christie, she says, should.

"We need boots on the ground," she says, an interesting comment to make at a time when the federal government is debating whether to intervene in Syria.

It's not just the shortage of cops she says. There aren't enough jobs for the young people who are ripping and running on the streets. Nor are there enough recreational facilities. Neither city recreational facilities or otherwise.

"There aren't any more open Boys or Girls Clubs in Newark," she says.

Last week, one of the 10 homicides in 10 days was outside a shuttered Boy's Club. A young woman. Shot. A 30-year-old man was shot in that incident as well. He survived.

That shooting was just about 10 blocks from this latest one. Jackson has attended each of the funerals. Has even helped the families with their arrangements. In at least the past 16 killings she claims, Booker hasn't reached out to any of the families.

Jackson recognizes that some of those killed were perpetrators. Cops believe the latest victim may have been dealing drugs. That doesn't matter to her.

"This man lying in that driveway over there is someone's brother. Maybe someone's father. Definitely someone's son."

Booker, she maintains, is mayor of all of the city of Newark. And until he leaves, as he hopes he will, for Washington, he needs to reach out to all of the grieving families. No matter the circumstances of the homicide.

He also needs to do something about a shortage of police which, she says, puts both citizens and cops in peril. But, she says, on both counts, she's not holding her breath.

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