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Friday, 27 January 2012

Newark's level of gang-related murders among highest in nation

10:44 |

Fueled largely by the drug trade, gang violence in Newark is on par with historically violent California cities like Los Angeles and Oakland, according to a report the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released today. Using data from 2003 through 2008, the analysis looked at homicides in large cities in 17 states and found the highest level of gang-related murders in Los Angeles, Oakland and Long Beach, Calif., Oklahoma City and Newark. By comparing gang-related killings to non-gang slayings, the report showed retaliation to ongoing violence and internal set disputes, rather than drugs, drove violence in four of those five cities. Newark was the outlier. New Jersey’s largest city recorded a significantly higher proportion of drug involvement in gang homicides, according to the report. Twenty percent of the city’s gang killings involved drugs, compared with 6 percent of non-gang homicides. "It’s just the gang structure in Newark is different than what you would typically see in L.A. We don’t get shootings and homicides because somebody is a Blood or somebody is a Crip," said Police Director Samuel DeMaio. "In Newark, it’s not the gang members who are dealing drugs, it’s drug dealers who happen to belong to gangs." Since 2007, Newark has seen an overall decline in violent crime and homicides, after several years when the annual death toll hovered in the triple digits. But slayings have increased in the past two years, and the city is home to a wide array of gangs, including Bloods, Crips, Latin Kings, MS-13 and Trinitarios. Criminals are more loyal to drug money than gang affiliation in Newark, said DeMaio, who has seen Bloods and Crips work together to control several drug corridors. In other major cities, the report showed drugs played a minor role in homicides. Narcotics were linked to fewer than 5 percent of all slayings in Los Angeles and Long Beach. In Oakland, 12.5 percent of gang homicides involved drugs, compared with 16.5 percent of non-gang homicides, and 25.4 percent of Oklahoma City’s gang homicides were connected to narcotics, compared with 22.8 percent of non-gang homicides. On the national stage, the finding that drugs played less of a role than previously thought by the public could be important for policy makers because it may shift the focus in how society attempts to prevent gang deaths. "Violence — including gang homicides — is a significant public health problem," Linda C. Degutis, director of the CDC’s National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, said in a statement. "Investing in early prevention pays off in the long run. It helps youth learn how to resolve conflicts without resorting to violence and keeps them connected to their families, schools and communities, and from joining gangs in the first place."

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