2 NJ Cities Brace for Summertime Crime

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    NEWSLETTERS

    TK
    NBCNewYork
    The scene where an off-duty police officer was shot while getting a slice of pizza in Newark. That city and Jersey City have different approaches to crime this summer.

    New Jersey's two largest cities both fear a wave of crime and violence this summer, but they have come up with two different ways to attack it.

    Newark is bringing back its police helicopter and its mounted patrols, putting beat cops on the street and officers on buses to get tours of problem neighborhoods.

    Newark is also taking the unusual step of bringing curfew violators to church and houses of worship before getting them home.

    "We are going to enforce the curfew this summer with a vigor that has not been seen in a long, long time," Mayor Cory Booker said in unveiling the ambitious effort sparked in part by a recent spike in murders.

    Last summer, there were 35 killings in the state's largest city.

    "That will not happen ever again," Booker said.

    Jersey City dubbed its program Summer Shield and has focused on rounding up 176 violent offenders and wanted suspects in recent weeks.

    "We believe that a number of criminal activities simply won't occur because several of these repeat offenders are now in custody," Mayor Jerramiah Healy said.

    Both cities partnered with their respective county's prosecutor's offices.

    In Jersey City's case,  a multi-agency effort involved spending several months identifying and then arresting violent offenders out on the streets.

    In Newark's case, the Essex Prosecutor will lend its Viper street crime unit to Newark for the entire summer and help foot the bill for the return of the police department's helicopter.

    Both cities are also planning active summer alternatives for families and young people, including movie screenings.

    But Newark's effort to involve its house of worship into the curfew program may be as ambitious as anything.

    "I'm excited about the possibility of reaching a whole lot of  folks, and also by doing that, literally saving the lives of young people," said the Rev. Steven Davis. of Calvary Gospel Church.

    He expects to open his doors one night a week to welcome youth brought in on curfew violations between the hours of 11 p.m. and 4 a.m.

    There are skeptics, such as Newark resident Jermaine West.

    "I don't know if it's gonna work," West said. "The kids now are 14 or 15 but they seem like they're grown now -- half of them don't even listen to their parents."

    Newark's curfew program has the potential to draw complaints because of the religious component, but Booker said he is determined to make the curfew enforcement work.

    "The focus will be on the community," Booker said.

    Follow Brian Thompson on Twitter @brian4NY