Newark, New Jersey, has been designated the crime capital of the United States by the FBI
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The Independent Culture
Newark, New Jersey, has been designated the crime capital of the United States by the FBI.

Most dangerous place, 1: West Side Park. Serious gang territory. Police will only stop a suspicious vehicle if two police cars are present. Mostly 1950s housing projects in the brutalist style. Each corner is marked with gang colours. Gunfire and rap music are the prevailing sounds at night.

Most dangerous place, 2: Elizabeth Avenue, in West Side Park neighbourhood. "Doughnuts" are large black rings formed on the tarmac by the tyres of stolen cars. The trick is to drive towards an intersection at high speed. The handbrake is applied and the car spins. The most skilled doughnut-makers can keep a car spinning for several minutes.

Favourite destination: The New Jersey Turnpike, which leads out of Newark. Frequently used by car thieves because Newark's Port Elizabeth makes it easy to get stolen vehicles out of the country. The Russian mafia is active in the trade.

Best restaurants: Any one of the Fornos, Iberia or Brasilia. All three are in Newark's "Ironbound" district immortalised in the Suzanne Vega song. Ironbound is a Portuguese and Brazilian district and it is said that the descendants of pirates who live here have their own system of justice and do not tolerate gangs or street crime. But a turf war has begun between Russian and Brazilian call-girls. It seems many Brazilian men prefer the blonde Russians.

Latest fad: T-shirts, coats and caps in the colours of the Charlotte Hornets and Orlando Magic basketball teams. The Orlando centre, Shaquille O'Neall, was born in Newark. The teams' colours are worn by opposing gangs in West Side Park. Street gangs alsofavour goose-down parkas with large hoods. Police have taken to calling the gangs "hoodies". There have been muggings where people have been deprived of their parkas at gunpoint.

Most listened to song: "Souljah's Revenge" fom the album Strictly 4 My Niggaz by the recently shot and convicted Tupac Shakur. The song begins with a dramatised shooting of a young black man by the police and Tupac sings: "Souljah, can't find no peace onthe streets until the Niggaz get a piece. **** the police."

Catchphrase: "Mothafucka gangsta bitch". A term of approbation among West Side Park gangs.

Best emergency room: New Jersey University Hospital. Famous for the treatment of gunshot wounds - military surgeons come here for "real" field experience.

Hottest ticket: Opening night at New Jersey Performance Arts Centre. The first phase will be complete by 1996, at a cost of $20m. They hope Whitney Houston, a child of Newark, will perform.

Daniel Jeffreys