On Aug. 4, also National Night Out, Gov. Jon Corzine announced at a press conference the number of homicides in New Jersey for the first six months of this year is down 24 percent from the same time period in 2008. There were 158 reported homicides across the state from January to June 2009, compared to 209 homicides statewide in the same time frame in 2008.
However, that homicide decrease was not reflected in Jersey City, according to the crime stats on the Jersey City Police Department’s website, where in this year’s first six months there were 15 homicides, the same as last year’s first six months. For all of 2008, there were 22 homicides.
At the pace of homicides occurring so far this year, there could be 30 by year’s end. As of last week, there were a total of 18 homicides in Jersey City.
In comparison, Camden, the South Jersey city of 80,000 that has had a higher number of homicides than Jersey City over the years and considered one of the top crime-ridden cities in the country, this year has seen 20 people killed between January and June, as opposed to 35 in the same period last year, a 43 percent decrease.
Corzine’s announcement was about the second phase of the statewide violence reduction initiative implemented under his Strategy for Safe Streets and Neighborhoods. Specifically targeting street gangs to reduce violent crimes beginning in the summer of 2008, in one year there were more than 4,200 arrests across the state connected to the initiative. More than one-fourth arrested were suspected gang members.
The initiative has also led to closer cooperation amongst law enforcement agencies across the state, which is growing with the introduction this month of CrimeTrack, a database for law enforcement agencies across the state to collect, store and share their criminal intelligence related to criminal street gang activity.
“Information sharing is power, and individuals and trends are important tools.” – Edward DeFazio
“Information sharing is power, and individuals and trends are important tools,” DeFazio said. “But as we know, this is a much more complex problem.”
Jersey City Police Chief Thomas Comey was not available for comment before this article went to press.
The homicides Some of the homicides that have occurred in Jersey City so far:
• Police Officer Marc Dinardo, 37, was shot in the face in a shootout with gunman Hassian Hosendove inside a Reed Street apartment building on July 16. Died a few days later from his wounds.DeFazio said a “significant portion” of the homicides that have taken place in Jersey City are “gang-related” but not the way that people perceive, where it is usually about territorial disputes.
• Kiritkumar Parikh, 57, the owner of Albert’s Grocery on 120 Coles St. in downtown Jersey City, was killed in an apparent robbery attempt on Jan. 27. The 57-year-old Parekh at the time had been tending his store with his wife by his side. Parekh’s murder remains unsolved.
• Pedro Roman, Jr., 17, was shot in Jersey City’s Ferris Triangle Park on Apr. 21, while he was with a group of young men in the park on Cator and Rose avenues. Tashawn Holmes, 18, was arrested the day after the shooting, and the day after his arrest, his alleged accomplice Christopher Grant, 18, was arrested for allegedly providing the gun. The shooting, according to DeFazio, stemmed from a prior dispute.
“It’s about personal disputes, whether it’s about money, love interest, disrespect, where those members of gangs resort to the use of a firearm to settle them,” DeFazio said.
Beyond the numbers
If there was any good news for Jersey City when it comes to violent crime, it is that there have been decreases in categories such as aggravated assault and robbery in the first six months of this year as opposed to same period last year.
There was a 24 percent decrease in aggravated assault incidents with 594 from January through June 2008 compared to 450 at the same period this year. And there was an 11 percent decrease in robberies from 466 to 413.
However, that decrease gives little comfort to Jersey City resident Angela Evans, who is helping church leaders across the city organize a three-day conference later this month to tackle the topic of gang violence in Jersey City.
“The ruthlessness of it all, with gang members shooting people in daylight and just gang activity in general,” Evans said. “Something has to be done about it because our streets are unsafe.”
Ricardo Kaulessar can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.