City Council Votes for Armed Guards to Patrol Newark Fast-Food Joints at Night

Restaurant owners balk at security costs; initiative would take effect next month unless Booker intervenes.

By Tom Llamas
|  Friday, Jul 8, 2011  |  Updated 12:07 PM EDT
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City council signs off on putting more guns on the streets.

City council signs off on putting more guns on the streets.

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On the heels of an uptick in violence that claimed the life of an off-duty cop, Newark's city council voted Thursday to require all late-night restaurants that serve less than 20 people at a time to have an armed security guard posted from 9 p.m. to closing.

The vote comes less than two months after veteran Newark police officer William Johnson was gunned down standing at the counter of a fast-food restaurant in New Jersey's largest city waiting for a slice of pizza. He was off-duty at the time and not the intended target of the drive-by shooting.

Fast-food joints like the pizza spot where Johnson was slain are all over Newark. Chicken shacks, pizza parlors and Chinese restaurants serve hot, cheap food late into the night. 

Newark's city council says these late-night eateries attract customers, but also crime. 

"I think it's a wonderful idea. I really do," Newark resident Myra Dixon said of the initiative. "I hate that it has had to come to this, and the community because Newark used to be a nice place to live. But we gotta do what we gotta do."

Restaurant owners feared hiring security guards would strangle their finances.

Newark has tried to drive crime down, touting a 25 percent drop in the murder rate compared with last year. 

But on Monday, three people were killed in various shootings within an hour of each other. The suspect in one of the deadly shootings later committed suicide in Virginia, authorities said.

The new ordinance could take effect next month unless Mayor Cory Booker intervenes. NBC New York reached out to the mayor's office and to Booker on Twitter, but did not get an immediate response.

Follow Tom Llamas @TomLlamas4NY or us @NBCNewYork. Also check us out on Facebook at Facebook/NBCNewYork.

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