Angels help patrol Newark as NJ cities eye PD cuts

December 1, 2010 3:06:30 AM PST
Any hope of bargaining to undo the police layoffs in Newark seems to be fading Wednesday.

Mayor Cory Booker says he can't get the police union to negotiate.

Businessmen and laid-off police officers say the law enforcement cutbacks will make Newark a far more dangerous city. And there's word now that other New Jersey communities are going to face similar police cutbacks.

The war of words between the union and city officials continues to heat up after more than 150 officers were officially laid off Tuesday. The Guardian Angels took up patrols Tuesday night, and police director Garry McCarthy says he appreciates any outside help.

"With less cops, people have to take to the streets to fight for what they know is right," one Guardian Angel said.

It was a first night on the streets of Newark, with 50 Guardian Angels patrolling the city's west and south wards, making the group's first appearance in the city in almost 30 years.

But it was little comfort to merchants who told Eyewitness News they feel compelled to close early now that 167 police officers are off the job. They are not buying the police director's assurances.

"We've eliminated all the staff positions in between and pushed them down to the street," McCarthy said. "So in the end, it's virtually the same amount of cops on the street."

Murders, rapes and robberies in Newark are up 11 percent over last year, and that was before the layoffs.

"These layoffs were entirely avoidable," Booker said. "These layoffs could have been stopped at any moment by the union leadership."

"It makes no sense to me to have the union be the focal point, blamed because of the budget crisis and a need to save jobs," FOP Lodge 12 owner Derrick Hatcher said.

For the officers dismissed from the department just weeks before Christmas, it is a sad end heading into the holidays without a paycheck and stripped of their badges.

"It's scary," laid-off officer Timonthy Hart said. "Crime was bad when I was there. And it's probably only going to get worse, unfortunately."

There is word that the cities of Camden and Jersey City are aiming to cut their police forces, while some municipalities are looking to impose massive hikes in their property taxes.

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