According to crime stats collected from the city by the New Jersey State Police for their annual Uniform Crime Report, from January to April of this year violent crime in Jersey City dropped by 39 percent, or a decrease of 709 incidents in the categories of murder, robbery, assaults, and rape from the same time period last year.
Also, non-violent crime dropped 43 percent in the areas of burglary, theft, including car theft, and arson. There were a total of 1,409 incidents from January to April in 2007 in this category, or 1,074 fewer incidents than the 2,483 in the same period of 2006.
In announcing the crime stats, city officials have taken issue with the media for not reporting the "good news" of the falling crime stats with the same attention given to city crime being up in 2005.
In a press release issued on May 24, the city's Director of Communications and Police Spokesperson Stan Eason challenged editors at various media outlets, "It's good news, will you report it?"
Police Chief Thomas Comey said the "good news" about the crime stats should be reported by all outlets as it will remind people that the police are always proactive.
"I am happy that the crime stats are going down, but I won't rest on my laurels. I will continue to work to see it go down even further," Comey said. "But I am most proud of the men and women in this department who have worked hard to get those stats down and deserve all the attention for their work."
Comey along with Mayor Jerramiah Healy also credited the hiring of over 140 new police officers in the past two years and the use of COMPSTAT, the computer software employed for better analysis and pinpointing of crime trends.
However, some of the good news doesn't quite add up. An analysis done by the Jersey City Reporter found errors in the number of incidents in various crime categories cited in the city's press release.Uniform numbers?
In the recent press release on the crime stats for the first four months of this year, as compared to last year's stats, the city claims huge decreases in specific crimes.
The greatest drop was said to occur in homicides, which were down by 60 percent. In 2006, there were 10 murders, compared to four in 2007.
The most significant drop in non-violent crimes was a 50 percent decline in street robberies; there were 274 in 2007 compared to the 543 in January to April in 2006.
But an examination of those numbers in the Uniform Crime Reports on the Jersey City Police Department's Web site (www.njjcpd.org) revealed that although crime went down overall, discrepancies existed.
When calculated from the numbers posted on the Web site, the percentage drop comes to 27.5 percent, as opposed to 39 percent.
The total number of non-violent crime incidents from January to April in 2007 comes out to 1,863 as opposed to 1,409 cited on the press release. However, a check of the numbers for the same period in 2006 borne out the correct total of the 2,483 listed on the press release.
Street robberies listed as 274 on the press release come out to 357 according to the numbers listed on the JCPD Uniform Crime Reports for January-April 2007.
The homicides for January to April 2007 is five compared to 10 in 2006, which is actually a 50 percent decrease. What explains the differences in the crime numbers?
Eason, when asked last week about the numbers, said the information he stated in the press release, was sent to him from the Police Department. He provided a copy of the sheet with the numbers sent to him, which shows the numbers that he referred to for the amount of violent crimes, non-violent crimes, and specifically street robberies and homicides. He also said the information was confirmed this year by the state.
Eason after looking into the matter found that the police department had accidentally omitted the April numbers before they sent the information to him. Comey said a computer glitch occurred that tallied the numbers for January to March only. Comey went on to say that he is instructing his staff to "manually" add the numbers in the future rather than depending on a computer to insure accuracy. But he did verify that the information on the Uniform Crime Reports from January-April of this year was updated and correct.
There is a process by which crime stats are reported to the state's Attorney General Office. With Jersey City, the police department submits their uniform crime stats to the Attorney General's office. It's all about good news
Eason in the press release takes to task the media for not reporting when crime is going down but are eager to report when crime is up.
"Despite our success, you have a tough time getting the word out to the public when a "shock-and-awe" inclined media refuses to share the good news with the public," said Eason in the press release.
Eason, a former print journalist with 15 years experience, said what led him to express his frustration was the struggle he faced to get those in the media to report the falling crime stats. He saw news people constantly coming to Jersey City in 2005 when homicides were at their highest level in nearly 25 years.
"I had to beg various reporters, some of whom are good friends of mine, to do a report on the falling crime," Eason said. "When crime stats are up, you couldn't get them to leave Jersey City."
Eason was asked if Mayor Jerramiah Healy and Police Chief Comey should have held a press conference to announce the crime stats, he disagreed.
"I have sent out press releases with the falling crime stats to every media outlet," Eason said. "I have sent the press releases out with the tax bills. The press conferences are unnecessary. Are you going to have one every time we announce crime stats are going down?"
But Eason did say Mayor Healy and DeFazio were scheduled to do a show on the city's public access TV station, JC1TV, where the mayor would announce the falling crime stats and DeFazio would speak about a gun control initiative he is pursuing.
Last week, Healy said he agreed with Eason about his assessment of the media. But said he found fault mostly with the reporting of a local daily newspaper and not with media outlets in general.
"You had the [local daily] when we had a spike in crime from 2004 to 2005 [report daily.] They kept a daily vigil. They recited every day that crime went up," Healy said. "Now, when crime is down, do you see them reporting it? No, they just continue to engage in yellow journalism."
Healy also expressed skepticism about the benefits of a press conference announcing the lower crime stats.
However, Comey said he would have no problem standing in front of reporters for any announcement on the falling crime stats. Ricardo Kaulessar can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org