Taking a look at the economic toll of gun violence

Candles and plastic roses mark the spot on Chancellor Avenue in Newark where someone shot Tyree Lamar Barba to death a few weeks ago. Online gun memorials note other murder victims from the city’s South Ward, eight so far this year, and every homicide hurts the whole neighborhood, where businesses lock up behind steel security doors at night.

“[The businesses] close pretty early because nobody wants to deal with the drama that happens here on the street and people suffer for it,” said South Ward resident Salima Bey, “I’m not going to stand at this bus stop to go to work, to work the late shift, because I’m not feeling safe because they over there doing something else.”

Marion and Juanita Rowe own Jay’s Hair and Beauty Salon on Chancellor Avenue. She sees revenues drop almost 50 percent for a while after every murder.

“People are afraid to come in the area,” said Juanita.

“People stay away. They stay home, in the aftermath of that, so it has a great impact on business and on people’s freedoms,” said Marion.

A new study shows gun homicides cost New Jersey more than $220 million a year in lost business opportunity, between 2010 and 2014. It also figures each additional homicide in a city causes an annual loss of between $293,000 and $732,000 because people are afraid to work evenings and at night. Those stunning statistics come from the Giffords Law Center, named for the Arizona congresswoman who was shot while meeting with constituents.

“This is an area where we have an opportunity to revitalize some of these communities that have been most impacted, and it’s really a way to improve the economy while saving lives,” said senior staff attorney at the Giffords Law Center, Mike McLively.

The study breaks down how more than 2,000 shootings in New Jersey each year drain the economy, including health care costs at $93 million, lost income at $918 million, and law enforcement and criminal justice expenses at $131 million. The Law Center recommends violence intervention programs for shooting victims.

“People who are shot are at very high risk of being shot again, or actually of perpetrating violence themselves. So these programs actually intervene while the person is in the hospital and that creates this teachable moment where they are open to a message of change,” McLively said.

In Newark, the city’s fighting back by recovering more guns, up 41 percent over last year, and installing a network of surveillance cameras. A new camera’s parked one block down the street from where Barba was shot.

“How can we stem violence? Policing alone will not do it,” said Newark South Ward councilman John Sharpe James. “It’s tough, but we have to address it in other ways other than stopping the guns, because it’s a national issue. So we’re going to do everything to empower the residents. We’re going to work with all the local businesses, many of them have cameras already.”

New Jersey’s gun control laws are already among the nation’s most stringent. Second Amendment proponents discounted the study.

“They are trying to make the Second Amendment a public health crisis, to trick people into thinking that we have to do something, and measures have to be taken so that people can have harder access to exercise their Second Amendment right,” said Alexander Roubian, president of the New Jersey Second Amendment Society.

Residents say anger management and more education could help control gun violence in Newark, plus a stronger police presence and fewer guns.

We’re in this together
For a better-informed future. Support our nonprofit newsroom.
Donate to NJ Spotlight