Handguns are made to kill people. We know this in our bones because of murders in Far Rockaway and Fulham and Orange and now, once again, in Newark. The bloodshed in New Jersey, spewed Gangland style, killed three kids and injured another on an abandoned schoolyard in a tonier part of Newark — where this sort of thing doesn’t happen — called Ivy Hill.

Seton Hall University shares a border with Ivy Hill Park. Last weekend was especially bloodthirsty in Newark as the murder count for the year rose to a high of 60 dead.

The killings, along with an unrelated shooting over the weekend that killed a Montclair man, brought Newark’s murder total to 60 in 2007. That is three fewer than for the same period in 2006, but the statistic obscures a more disturbing one: 17 people have been killed in the city in the eight weeks since June 12, a rate that would surpass 2006’s total of 106 murders for the calendar year.

The most heinous killings happened in the Ivy Hill schoolyard where five gangsters lined up four friends, made them kneel against a wall execution-style and shot them dead in the head.

Iofemi Hightower, 20, was shot dead in the head.

Dashon Harvey, 20, was shot dead in the head.

Terrance Aeriel, 18, was shot dead in the head.

His sister, Natasha, 19, survived a gunshot to the face and is in fair condition as she tries the police to help identify the killers. All four victims were lifelong friends and attended Delaware State University together. None of the dead or wounded had criminal records. It appears the reason for the executions was a robbery gone bad:

Police said when the four students arrived, there were already two men in the schoolyard. After a few minutes, several more men arrived, and the friends got nervous. According to McCarthy, they sent text messages back and forth to each other saying, “Let’s get out of here.”

At some point, the men, armed with at least one gun and a knife, approached the four friends and announced a robbery. What they took remains unclear. McCarthy said knife wounds on Hightower’s forearms and broken jewelry found at the scene led police to believe there was a struggle.

Can Cory Booker, Newark’s newly elected privileged pretty boy Ivy-League educated lawyer-turned-mayor, turn around a city like Newark where bloodshed and mayhem are the covenants of the day and the price of surviving on the streets is paid with the futures of the young?

Cory Booker, 38, was elected mayor of Newark in May 2006, becoming only the third man to lead New Jersey’s largest city since
1970. A lawyer and Rhodes Scholar, he was raised in the affluent suburb of Harrington Park and educated at Stanford University and Yale Law School. During the campaign, Mr. Booker pledged to tackle crime, widespread unemployment and the despair that has clouded this city’s fortunes since the 1967 riots drove thousands of residents to the suburbs.

Or does a thug city like Newark demand a gangster-like mayor in the form of former Newark mayor Sharpe James who has been indicted for misuse of city money when he led the city?

Sharpe James served as mayor of Newark, New Jersey’s largest city, for 21 years. A state senator since 1999, he was a political force to be reckoned well beyond Newark’s borders — arguably the state’s most important voice for cities and minorities, but widely derided as a master of patronage but not policy. In 2002, he faced the fiercest challenge to his control of City Hall, and narrowly defeated Cory Booker, a charismatic young lawyer. Four years later Mr. James chose not to run for re-election as mayor, and in April 2007 he announced that he would retire from his senate seat at the end of his term. Shortly after he left the mayoralty a federal investigation began into the sale of city lands and Mr. James’ use of city credit cards; he was indicted on July 12, 2007.

Can Cory Booker’s book smarts translate into street-smart credibility in Newark? Or does Ivy League theory drain down the wishing well when blood forms rivulets in the schoolyards of the urban core?

36 Comments

  1. Race it is. Newark is dark and tough and Booker is light and soft and as hard as it is to say that here that’s reality. Sharpe James was a mean a-hole who knew how to talk loud and carry a hatchet to keep the city in line. Don’t last 20 years in a city like Newark as mayor by being nice guy.

  2. Look when there’s trouble in the street white folk call the cops and blacks pick up a baseball bat and go join the fun. Yeah stereotype just hang on. Point is Booker plays white man game build up cops with guns. If he from the street he go other ways like pushing money off street corners to make the playas pay for the trouble in their joints. Calm it down and you back in money. Booker does it opposite cause thats how he was raised in white world.

  3. We’ll see what happens. Booker has no street cred in the community so they don’t support him. They feel repressed not safe.
    Wonka means opposites attract I guess. I like the movie and the candy.

  4. If Sharpe was so effective, why was the murder rate so high when he ruled the roost? Looks like his way didn’t do anything, and Booker’s way hasn’t been tried for long enough to determine in terms of effectiveness.

  5. No one is arguing Sharpe James was better, but Booker ran a campaign that claimed he had a better way and so far he isn’t showing much of a change from the status quo of his nemesis:
    Yesterday’s NYT tracks Booker’s premature nadir:

    The weekend’s four homicides — a man was killed in a separate attack not far from the Mount Vernon School on Sunday morning — come at a hard time for Mr. Booker, who is wrestling with a $180 million budget gap and the prospect of laying off as many as 400 city employees.
    The slayings, and the ensuing flurry of media attention, followed a particularly bruising series of events that seemed to deeply shake City Hall.
    Early last week, the city failed to pay 1,000 youngsters who were taking part in a summer jobs program that the mayor had promoted. When officials tried to make good, and summoned the teenagers to Newark Symphony Hall for payment, hundreds waited for hours in sweltering heat for the free pizza and soda that was meant to soothe them.
    Then there was the YouTube incident. At a political fund-raiser in May, what Mr. Booker intended as an affectionate tribute to a Newark community advocate who had died a few months earlier was viewed as disparaging. He described the woman, Judith Diggs, as a portly hell-raiser who frequently cursed, and who was missing a few teeth. The home video rattled even his most ardent allies.
    For both his enemies and his supporters, the episode seemed to crystallize a widespread sentiment here that Mr. Booker, who was raised in a manicured, largely white Bergen County suburb, is not entirely attuned to the culture and sensitivities of his constituents. Mr. Booker has apologized for the speech, but many are still feeling wounded.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2007/08/07/nyregion/07booker.html

  6. Only time will tell if Booker is more buffing or brass but the following recent NYT headlines concerning Newark raise cause for concern:
    Newark Battles Murder and Its Accomplice, Silence (May 27, 2007)
    Newark Shootings Kill 2 and Injure 7 (April 4, 2007)
    Crime Drops In Newark, But Murders Keep On Rising (April 2, 2007)
    In Effort to Cut Homicide Rate, Newark Mayor Creates Narcotics Unit (January 9, 2007)

  7. UPDATE:

    The man who surrendered to authorities this afternoon in connection with the execution-style slayings of three college students in a Newark schoolyard Saturday has a violent past and was headed to trial on sexual assault charges, court records show.
    Jose Carranza, 28, also known as Jose Larchire, was named today as the “principal suspect” in the slaughter that has stirred outrage in the city and beyond its borders. Carranza — who surrendered in person to Newark Mayor Cory Booker — and a 15-year-old boy arrested Wednesday night are charged with murder, robbery and weapons offenses in the killings. Authorities are still hunting for other possible suspects.

    http://www.nj.com/news/index.ssf/2007/08/police_arrest_suspect_in_newar.html

  8. The issue is not who the mayor is, nor what he does.
    A parent of one of the slain students complained of other parents not bringing their children up right.
    Now it turns out that Jose had a troubled past and was not long for the streets. Do his parents remain reprehensible? Drugs and drinking are not in and of themselves the culprits leading children to violence, but knives and guns sure do help. Is the realistic violence of video games worse than the anvils and pianos of bugs bunny? Our children dying in Iraq….have you any idea how cheap life is in the Mideast? What can we do to keep the creep of cheap from our society? Stop blaming everyone else, the fault lies on our own doorsteps…there must be more that we can do to help our nation (Ask not what your nation can do for you…)
    Grieving now is appropriate. But what will we do when grief is over? Complain some more?

  9. The urban core is in great need of healing. Poverty claims more lives than it should because poverty leads to an evolutionary desperation where people would rather fight — even at the end of a handgun — than give in to the early, inevitable fact of the death of the promise of their lives. The universal condition of the human spirit is simple: To take a breath tomorrow.
    The answer to me seems to be in the creation of a new covenant between local government and its most forgotten and ignored citizens. Give them a stake in the future of the city and the import of their own lives. If that means paying for good grades and purchasing illegal handguns to get them off the street then so be it. Let money talk its way out of repressive poverty so we can begin to heal the inner core with hope instead of bullets.

  10. Yeah the latest reported Newark killings were pretty bad. Handguns aren’t the problem though, they’re a symptom. Even if you got the handguns removed – a near impossibility – the murders would continue using knives, swords, clubs, etc…
    Remember the only survivor also suffered knife wounds to her head as well as a through-and-through from a firearm.

  11. Don’t you think there’s a better survival opportunity against a knife than a gun, jonolan? The Newark kids were beat up and knifed with something that had the cutting power and style of a machete — but when they tried to fight back and escape, the handgun came out to finalize the terror.

  12. No I really don’t think there’s a better survival chance in the long run. At first, taking the crutch of firearms away from thugs would hamper them but they would quickly train themselves in the use of melee weapons and reach their original level of threat.
    Example: I have a knife and a club. I attack you, but you evade my knife attack and run. I throw the club at your ankles. You fall. I finish you.
    Also, in the case you cite, that was laziness on the part of the murderers not lack of skill. They could have quickly caught up with a wounded victim and done for her. They chose to shoot instead. In the end I think the only difference is that with a machete or similar edged weapon she would have been dead, not just left for dead.

  13. jonolan —
    I’m not sure if I agree with you about survival rates of clubs/knives vs. handguns.
    You have a much better fighting chance at living against a club and a knife attack than you do against a bullet because they have to actually touch you with the weapon to inflict damage and that gives you an in-close, fighting, chance and that’s what happened with the survivor in Newark, she fought back, got up, and ran for her life… and lived.
    A gun can be fired from far away and inflict serious damage. Guns do make for lazy killers. You need to have some idea of how to correctly use a club and a knife if you want to do permanent life damage.
    If you have a little bit of Martial Arts training, the first thing you’re taught when it comes to a knife attack is, if all else fails, grab the knife.
    By the blade.
    If your hand is wrapped around the cutting edge you can’t be cut with it. You may end up with a limp hand afterward but you stand a better chance of living longer.

  14. You’re correct in the short term; that I won’t even think of disputing. In the long term I think that the attackers will develop enough skill with their weapons and adjust their predation methods to mitigate the gains we would achieve by eliminating firearms.
    Urban crime is nothing new and I doubt that deathrate percentages have changed that much in the past 2000 years or so.
    You are also right in that removing the handguns would reduce the standoff capability of attackers. They would have to close with their opponants to attack. I would be worried that it would also reduce the attack via intimidation (“I gotta gat. Give me your money”) in favor of the ambush or blitz attack.

  15. Desperate, bored, people do terrible things. The less options they have available to them to hurt us, the better off we are in a longer view, I think. We also need to be confident, train in self-defense and travel in pairs — that way we don’t look vulnerable or available for demolition.