As reported by, three fatal shootings in the last two days pushed Newark’s homicide total to 29 this year, a 71 percent jump in killings compared with the same period in 2010, as violent crime surges following police layoffs. Between January 1 and April 17, Newark has seen marked increases in homicides, shootings, and thefts, while overall crime rose by 21 percent compared with the same time last year, according to Newark’s quarterly crime statistics obtained by the The Star-Ledger.

The report shows Newark has suffered steady increases in violent crime and property crime since the city laid off 167 police officers in November. Between January 1 and April 17, shootings increased from 56 to 72 and robberies jumped from 418 to 462. Auto thefts saw the sharpest rise, leaping by 39 percent, from 743 in 2010 to 1,035 during the same time this year, according to the report.

“I think it just comes down to the people on the street. The bad guys know we’re not out there, and it has an effect on how they operate,” said James Stewart, Jr., vice president of Newark’s Fraternal Order of Police. “That’s why the shootings have increased dramatically, that’s why the homicides are up.” Stewart said the layoffs have made criminals more brazen, saying the lack of police manpower makes gang members and drug dealers more likely to carry weapons and to use them in the open.

While crime has increased, police productivity has also continued to slide. The total number of arrests made by city police officers between January 1 and April 17 dipped by 22 percent compared with 2010, according to statistics, while the number of parking summonses and moving violations issued also dipped. The trend continued a decline that started last year. Arrests and summons totals dropped in the second half of 2010, with some of the largest decreases coinciding with bitter and hostile negotiations between the unions and the administration.

Stewart says the lack of manpower leaves patrol officers on the defensive, responding to calls for help rather than actively trying to make arrests or issue summonses. “Not that we had free time, but now you’re just going job, to job, to job,” he said.

The violent opening to 2011 is in stark contrast to last year, when the department enjoyed one of its most successful stretches in recent memory. Crime dropped 13 percent during the first three months of 2010 and Newark police crippled one of the city’s oldest drug havens in a massive raid at Academy Spires apartments.