Violence in Newark; Rent on the rise?

Behind The News
May 5, 2008 1:27:31 PM PDT
There's a line in the movie "Chinatown," at the end, when Faye Dunaway has been shot and killed by a cop, and she's slumping over the steering wheel, with her forehead jammed against the horn. Jack Nicholson, who plays a private eye, is furious and distraught.

One of his associates tries to console him.

"Forget it, Jake. It's Chinatown."

They are the last spoken words of the movie.

The line is both brutally realistic and incredibly pessimistic.

I thought of the line today, after another bloody weekend in Newark. Three people who were shot and killed over a 12-hour period. Two of them killed each other, after an argument. Each drew a gun and fired away. One of the victims was just 16.

There are many people who I suspect -- sometimes under their breath or just in their head -- say the equivalent of the "Chinatown" line, but substitute the word "Newark" for "Chinatown."

Murders in Newark are actually down this year - 22 so far, nine fewer than this time last year. But the City is still viewed, despite the ongoing attempts to economically revitalize, as a sometimes dangerous place.

That view is not likely to change after a new study, released today by a group called The Sentencing Project, which found that there are more drug arrests made in Newark, as a percentage of all arrests, than any other city in the country.

In 2003, the last year studied, 39% of all arrests were for drug crimes, up from 8% in 1980.

The second highest percentage was in Baltimore, with 28.

The study also showed that drug arrests of blacks have increased nearly 750% in Newark sine 1980.

With the economy plummeting, these kinds of crimes tend to rise -- so the numbers could likely get worse.

We're in Newark tonight - but it's not about these crime stats. Instead, it's about something that happened in court. A Superior Court Judge has apparently been "caught on tape" making an inappropriate comment to an attorney. And not just any attorney. Ivette Ramos Alvarez is the immediate past president of the Hispanic Bar Association.

Alvarez was reportedly telling Judge James Convery that her client in a divorce case doesn't get regular statements from the Social Security Administration.

The Judge asked why he didn't get the statements. Alvarez said she, herself, had not gotten them in recent years, as if to explain that this wasn't unusual.

"Well," said the judge -- and whether it was in jest or not we don't know, but it doesn't' really matter now -- "when did you become an illegal alien?"

The attorney has now filed a misconduct complaint against the judge.

So what happens now? We have the story, tonight at 11.

Also at 11, Lucy Yang's at the Rent Guidelines Board, which will take a preliminary vote tonight on this next year's round of rent hikes for a million New York apartments. The folks who live in these rent stabilized apartments are usually quite animated at these annual gatherings - and tonight is likely to be no exception, what with the declining economy and rising prices in every other part of life. Those rising prices are part of the rationale for landlords asking for rent hikes of between 10 and 15%.

Stay tuned.

We'll also have a preview of tomorrow's primaries in Indiana and North Carolina, as Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton continue to slug it out.

And Phil Lipof tonight takes a closer -- and perhaps painful -- look at cell phone bills. Sure that $39.99 per month sounds like a great deal. But why is the bill nearly $60? Phil pulls back the onion peel tonight. And it might tear you up.

We'll also have any breaking news of the night, plus Lee Goldberg's AccuWeather forecast, and Scott Clark with the night's sports. I hope you can join Liz Cho and me, tonight at 11.