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Impact of City on Suburbia

Updated on November 8, 2014
Newark, NJ
Newark, NJ | Source

Newark is the largest city in Essex County, New Jersey. It is located on the most eastern part of the county, sharing borders with the harbor. According to the United States Census Bureau (2010), Newark has a population of over 270,000 within 24.187 miles2 of land. It houses individuals from all walks of life. Regardless of race, ethnicity, or class, there is a neighborhood in Newark suitable for nearly anyone. However a lot of people, especially Essex County residents, would never even consider moving to the "Great City of Newark". Newark is seen as a hub for violence and crime, and as a 'sanctuary' for criminals. The Ecology of Fear was a book written about Los Angeles and how it is portrayed in the media to create a sense of fear that consumes the actuality of the city. This concept is present within the rest of Essex County when looking at Newark. Discriminatory fear is blatantly present within Essex County because of municipalities like Orange, Irvington and, of course, Newark being surrounded by upper-class neighborhoods like Montclair, Livingston and Millburn. To make matters worse, most of the newsworthy interaction between residents of Newark and residents of upper class municipalities within the county is violent, problematic and/or criminal. For the purpose of this assignment I will examine two entirely unrelated incidents associated with both Millburn Township, an upper class municipality in Essex County, and the City of Newark:

  1. June 2013: A mother of two was brutally assaulted in her Short Hills home. The entire home invasion and assault was captured by a hidden “nanny cam”.
  2. December 2013: A husband was shot and killed trying to protect his wife from carjackers. The two criminals made off with the car.

It is very obvious that Newark plays a key role in how Essex County operates and affects residents of surrounding municipalities. There are far too many incidents proving this to be true, crime rates within the city only confirm a sense of danger for many.

Newark is the largest city in the state of New Jersey. According to the City of Newark, New Jersey (2009), the city is comprised of five wards: North, South, Central, East and West. These can be further broken down in the following neighborhoods: (1) North - Forest Hills, Mt. Pleasant, Broadway, 7th Avenue and Roseville; (2) South - Weequahic, Port Newark, South Broad Valley and Clinton Hill; (3) Central (aka the “Third Ward” - University Heights (Rutgers, NJIT & ECC), the Coast/Lincoln Park, Government Center and Springfield/Belmont; (4) East - Ironbound, Dayton, and the Downtown section; (5) West - Vailsburg section, including Ivy Hill Park, Fairmont and the West Side. The North and Central Wards are mostly upper-middle/middle/working class neighborhoods; the East and West Wards are mostly mixed socioeconomic ethnic enclaves - (East:) Portuguese, Spanish, Puerto Rican, Cuban, Irish, Italian, Polish, Jewish, Slavic and Lithuanian immigrants and (West:) African-Americans and Haitians; The South Ward was made up of mostly middle class Jewish enclaves, but now has neighborhoods of African-Americans and Hispanics. As proven the neighborhoods of Newark vary in size, color and class. However being a resident of Millburn for seven years, I know most of my neighbors thought all of Newark is “the ghetto”. There is a lot of resentment towards Newark because of events that have transpired in the past and were associated with the city. Additionally the more dangerous parts of Newark are thought about and considered far more than the suburban areas.

According to Neighborhoodscout (2013) Newark has a crime index of 9. In other words, Newark is safe than 9% of other cities in the United States. The websites goes on to mention that of the nearly 14,000 crimes that occur in Newark annually, nearly 3,300 are violent and a little over 10,700 were crimes against property. Pictured below is City Data’s (2013) table of Crime Rates in Newark by Year:


As you can see in 2011, the most committed crimes were (in order of most committed) theft, auto theft, burglary, robbery and assault; whereas the least committed crimes were (in order of most committed) murder, rape and arson. Therefore, it is true that crimes against property are far more frequent in Newark than violent crimes. Even still City Data’s (2013) shows that Newark has a crime rate of 604.0 while the United States as a whole has a crime index of 307.5. As mentioned earlier, I will be examining two instances of violence, involving Newark, very closely.

Before presenting each case, here is some background information to put everything into perspective. Newark’s demographic can be broken up as follows: 52.35% Black, 33.83% Hispanic, 26.31% White, 15.87% other races, 3.85% 2+ races, 1.62% Asian. Millburn Township’s demographic can be broken down as follows: 80.17% White, 15.66% Asian, 3.49% Hispanic, 1.97% 2+ races, 1.63% Black, 0.56% other races. These two towns are almost completely opposite in color, which is where the seeds of discriminatory fear start. Additionally in Newark, only 12.53% of residents have obtained a bachelor’s degree. This just reinforces that resident of the city of Newark are “more ghetto” in the minds of many upper-class residents.

The first instance happened this past summer. A mother of two was sitting on the couch watching television with her three-year-old daughter when a man burst through her back door and began assaulting her: punching, kicking, pushing her down the stairs, ect. The terrified woman and her infant and toddler daughters were no match for the “42-year-old Shawn Custis” (Huffington Post, 2013, para. 2). The mother was treated for injuries to her legs and head, she was told she had a concussion, but suffered far more from the fear that was now instilled in her being. According to Craig McCarthy (2013) of the Millburn Patch reports,

“Shawn Custis, 42, whose last known address is Newark, was arrested on 10th Street in New York City just after 5:30 p.m. by a Newark-based FBI task force along with personnel from the Essex County Prosecutor's office, said Anthony Ambrose, chief of detectives for the prosecutor's office” (par. 2)

As a resident of Millburn, the responses to this violent attack were frequent and frenzied. Families started purchasing nanny cams, “just in case”, extra security precautions were taken all over town, and the police were on high alert. Millburn Township is surrounded by other wealthy municipalities in Essex and Morris Counties, but according to Google Directions, the center of Newark is 20 minutes, or 10 miles, from the center of Millburn Township. There was immediate response in Newark as well because Custis was once a resident, a violent, trouble-causing one – all of Essex County was on high alert. According to CBS New York (2013), reported that Custis “pleaded not guilty Tuesday to multiple charges – including attempted murder – and was ordered held on $750,000 bail”. As far as sentencing goes, looking back at his history it is likely that Custis will cut a deal for insider information. Ted Sherman and Christopher Baxter (2013) report the following:

“Custis has been convicted of at least a dozen felonies since 1988. Yet he has never spent more than five years at any one stretch in state prison, according to state corrections department records. Most times — with parole — he’s been out in less than two. And in some cases, he did no jail time at all”

It is really unfortunate that career criminals, after going through the system several times, learn how to play it better than the District Attorneys sworn to protect the public. Millburn and Essex County’s government responded to the home invasion and Custis’ ability to get out of going to jail by introducing “’Home Invasion Law’ which would upgrade a home-invasion from a third-degree to a second-degree crime” (Augenstein, 2013). As a third-degree crime, home invaders could potentially walk away without jail time, but as a second-degree crime, the appropriate sentences would call for five to ten years in prison, at least. Despite the problems with the Nanny Cam Home Invasion, the perpetrator was apprehended – easing a lot of worried minds. However the perpetrators are not always caught within the first 24-48 hours.

The second incident happened just time month: a couple was ending an afternoon of Christmas shopping when suddenly they were held at gunpoint in a parking garage of the Mall at Short Hills. 30-year-old Dustin Friedland was shot in the head and killed trying to protect his wife from carjackers. She made it out of their 2012 Range Rover, but not in time to save her husband and just in time to let the carjackers take the luxury SUV and get away. According to ABC News (2013), “The SUV was found [that] Monday morning in Newark, on a residential street in the city's southern section a few blocks from Interstate 78, about eight miles from the mall”. More specifically the SUV was found covered in dirt and dust, with the back windshield smashed in, parked on the backyard of an abandoned house at that location. Neither suspect has been identified, nor found, but the Millburn Township, Essex County and New Jersey State police are still on the hunt. The SUV is in the possession of law enforcement and is being picked apart for physical evidence. In response to the violent carjacking and the mall’s blatant unpreparedness to deal with a situation of this magnitude, the mall is considering major security changes. The manager of the Mall at Short Hills “said mall officials might consider making changes to its security plan in the aftermath of last night's fatal carjacking” (Haydon & Heyboer, 2013).

Residents of upper-class neighborhoods in Essex County are extremely privileged. For some reason, we believe we are untouchable, that no intruders can infiltrate our little bubble, and when they do we are absolutely shocked. I include myself in that belief system because before I moved out of upper-class suburbia, I was a part of the superiority complex. Newark is the largest city in the state of New Jersey and it has a major impact on the rest of the state and Essex County. However crime is not the only layer of Newark, it’s just the most visible/public. Many of New Jersey’s largest ethnic enclaves are in Newark. The Ironbound is the most known ethnic enclave of the state.

The Ironbound is a large working class ethnic enclave located in the East Ward. It houses many ethnic groups such as Portuguese, Spanish, Puerto Rican, Cuban, Irish, Italian, Polish, Jewish, Slavic and Lithuanian immigrants. It is a close knit, multi-ethnic community and is approximately 10km2. According to the Go Ironbound (2013), the area is also known as “‘Down Neck’, because it is partly located on a neck of the Passaic River, the Ironbound is so named because it is surrounded by railroad tracks and is bordered by several major highways”. Members of this enclave are supported and motivated, which leads to the success of the area despite the fact that it is a working class neighborhood. Go Ironbound (2013) states it far better than I can:

“The area's success is often attributed to fierce neighborhood spirit, hard work, pride in home ownership, and mutual respect for the traditions of each group. By holding fast to these traits, Ironbound people have kept their community both attractive and distinctive”

The pride from residents also results in a lot of wonderful tourist attractions. According to Business Finder, the highest rated activities and attractions in the Ironbound include: a lot of ethnic restaurants and “mom and pop” shops. The Ironbound is a culturally diverse epicenter, but many residents of Essex County would not even consider visiting, thanks to the media built ecology of fear that exists.

Have you ever been to Newark, NJ?

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Augenstein, S. (2013, June 27). Millburn home invasion propts bill stiffening penalties. The Star Ledger. Retrieved from
Census Bureau, 2010 Demographic Profile, Doc. (2010).
Crime rate in Newark. (2013). Retrieved December 14, 2013, from City Data website:
Haydon, T., & Heyboer, K. (2013, December 16). Short Hills mall might consider security changes after fatal carjacking, manager says. The Star Ledger. Retrieved from
History. (n.d.). Retrieved December 14, 2013, from Go Ironbound website:
Location Inc. (2013). Newark NJ crime rates and statistics. Retrieved December 14, 2013, from Neighborhood Scout website:
McCarthy, C. (2013, June 28). Ex-con charged in violent Millburn home invasion caught on nanny cam. Millburn Patch, Police & Fire. Retrieved from
Neighborhoods. (2009). Retrieved December 14, 2013, from City of Newark website:
Shawn Custis arrested for NJ nanny cam home invasion. (2013, June 28). Huffington Post, Crime. Retrieved from
Sherman, T., & Baxter, C. (2013, July). Despite long rcriminal record, plea deals limit prison time for suspect in Millburn home invasion. The Star Ledger, News. Retrieved from
Short Hills mall carjacking victim ID'd; SUV located in Newark. (2013, December 16). ABC, National/World. Retrieved from
Suspect in Millburn, N.J. nanny cam home invasion held on $750K bail. (2013, July 2). Retrieved December 14, 2013, from CBS New York website:


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    • brittanycoughlin profile imageAUTHOR

      Brittany Coughlin 

      6 years ago from New Jersey

      While it is true that there's quite a bit of crime in New Jersey, specifically Newark, that can be said about the major city of every state, and holds true in other countries as well. However, we shouldn't avoid places out of fear -- so I'm happy to hear you'd be willing to come back. The best thing is to know where you're going/staying, how to handle yourself and your rights. I'm glad you liked my hub! Thank you!

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      I'm from the UK and spent a few days in Newark earlier this year en-route to a conference. It was my first experience of America and I have to say I really liked it. I had no real idea of the levels of crime associated with the area and found this hub really interesting. I would certainly go back to Newark if I had the opportunity. Great hub, thanks for sharing!


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