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Rutgers University Partners with Others to Help Reduce Newark’s Street Crime

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When the City of Newark launched its Newark Community Street Team Program this month, which is designed to reduce violence and engage youth and young adults in city neighborhoods, among the partners they credited in the venture is Rutgers University’s School of Criminal Justice and Rutgers Law School.

In a news conference at Newark City Hall on Thursday, July 21, Mayor Ras Baraka described the goals behind the program, which has placed 17 outreach workers in vulnerable neighborhoods, where they do everything from making sure children get safely to and from school to trying to quell neighborhood disputes that could lead to violence.

“Many murders and shootings are the result of conflicts between individuals or groups that get out of hand,” said Mayor Baraka. “The outreach workers anticipate, intervene, and disrupt conflicts before violence erupts. Having strong relationships with residents, gang members, and their families, they gain information that enables them to prevent conflicts from becoming deadly.”

The outreach workers are residents of the communities they are serving, and the team includes former gang members and the formerly incarcerated, who were trained and certified by a nationally-recognized community intervention organization, the Professional Community Intervention Training Institute and its founder Aquil Basheer.

The Newark Community Street Team is modeled after a program that has dramatically reduced violence in a section of the Watts district of Los Angeles and is being overseen by Director Aqeela Sherrils, who said the support being provided by Rutgers University “is critical.” Rutgers Law Associates, under the direction of Associate Dean Andrew Rothman, has seven attorneys that partner with the outreach workers to identify residents of the West and South Wards and help solve their legal problems. The attorneys handle everything from child support and landlord/tenant issues to finding out if residents have outstanding warrants, said Sherrils.

“Rutgers Law Associates are able to provide free legal services for people from Newark’s South and West Wards to assist them with myriad legal obstacles – including matters as simple as unpaid traffic tickets that have led to license suspension; but also housing disputes, reunification and child custody battles, consumer protection actions, and navigation of outstanding warrants,” said Rothman. “Clients are referred to the law associates through the outreach workers, and we especially want to help members of the re-entry population, whose problems are often compounded by a distrust of the legal system.”

Rutgers Law School's collaboration with the Newark Community Street Team was the brainchild of Todd Clear, professor and former dean of the School of Criminal Justice, and former Provost of Rutgers University-Newark. Clear manages the Safer Newark Council for the School of Criminal Justice and collected and analyzed crime data for the City of Newark, helping to identify the most pressing public safety issues and make recommendations about priorities to the city. He has convened the stakeholders working on public safety issues throughout the city, harnesses the resources of Rutgers University to assist in the council’s goals, and manages the executive body of the council, guiding them through the data.

Mayor Baraka also noted that in addition to doing street outreach, the workers also refer residents to additional needed services, including counseling or mental health services, affordable housing options, and medical or dental care. In addition, outreach workers can assist with linking neighborhood residents with life management skills, employment opportunities, and access to social services.

The Victoria Foundation, Prudential Foundation, and Paul Profeta of the Profeta Urban Investment Foundation are key supporters of the street team program.