This year, they may not be so quick to do so.
According to crime statistics in the Uniform Crime Reports for January through April 2008 posted on the Jersey City Police Department's Web site (www.njjcpd.org), there were 12 homicides in the first four months of this year, as opposed to five from January to April 2007. This is a 140-percent jump.
And as of the end of last week, there were a total of 14 homicides so far for 2008 - two less than the total for all of 2007 (16).
Also, there was a 17-percent hike in non-violent crime incidents (burglary, theft - including cars, and arson) with 2,210 incidents in this year's first four months as opposed to 1,896 in last year's first four months.
The positive news is that there was a slight decrease in violent crime other than murder (rape, robbery, and aggravated assault) with 693 incidents in the first third of 2008 compared to 697 in the 2007 first third.
When interviewed about the crime statistics for this year, Police Chief Thomas Comey said, "[The Police Department] did anticipate the increase in non-violent crime based on economic conditions, but we don't like to see the homicides go up, which is definitely disconcerting."
He also said he took "full responsibility" as police chief both for the slight decline in violent crime and for the increases in homicides and non-violent crime.This year's victims: Young men
City spokesperson Stan Eason countered the bad news by saying that if the crime numbers from May were included in the equation, then over the first five months of this year, non-violent crime increased by only 13 percent, and violent crime (other than homicides) decreased by 11 percent. However, homicides would still be higher, but only by 75 percent.
In May, according to a report from the NJ State Police as provided by Eason, there were two homicides, 366 violent crimes, and 598 non-violent crimes.
Eason also says there were six homicides January through April of last year rather than five as indicated in the crime reports on the Jersey City Police Department's website. That would make it a 100 percent jump rather 140 percent.
A check of Eason's numbers on non-violent crime from last year to this year showed that he was correct about the 13 percent decrease. But violent crime didn't decrease 11 percent, and instead is actually up 14 percent from last year. This year's victims: Young men
Of the 12 homicides that took place in the first four months this year, seven of them, or 58 percent, occurred in April. They included two consecutive weekends (April 19 and 20; April 27) in which there were four separate incidents that claimed the lives of five men.
This year's murders are different from the ones that earned the city a lot of negative attention two years ago. Back in 2006, there were several domestic homicides within families.
But this year has been marked by several individual violent gunshot murders in the street, especially of young men.
Among those were the murders on April 19 of Damien Williams, 28, died after being shot once in the chest near the corner of Grant and Rose avenues; Ramon Francisco Morales, 21, of Glenwood Avenue, who died after being shot during an armed robbery at the northeast corner of West Side and Highland avenues, and on April 20, Kwaun Martin, 24, of Claremont Avenue was killed in a shooting on Orient Avenue near Martin Luther King Jr. Drive. Mayor Healy responds
Mayor Jerramiah Healy last week said April was an aberration.
"While we did see an increase in homicides during April of this year, our statistics show that for the first half of the year, our homicide rate is actually stable," he said. "Whenever there is an increase in any violent crime, our police commanders review the statistics and add patrols to the areas where the crime is taking place. This procedure is known as Comstat and has been extremely successful for us."
He added, "When we had a slight increase in homicides in April, greater police presence in the troubled areas brought the numbers back down."
Healy said, "But even so, one homicide is one homicide too many and the goal of this City Council, this administration, and this Jersey City Police Department is to make this city and these streets as safe as possible. We realize, though, that in this city, or any city, suburb, or rural area, crime is always going to be a top concern with the citizens and a top priority of the governing body." Rape down, robbery up
For the first four months of the year, there were 13 rape incidents citywide as opposed to 20 in the same period of time last year - a 35-percent decrease.
Another downward trend is that there were 281 aggravated assault incidents as opposed to 320 last year, down by 12 percent.
Robbery was up. There were 397 robberies in this year's first third, as opposed to 357 in last year's first third - an 11-percent increase.
For the non-violent crime category, the increases were seen most in arson cases, up 32 percent with 37 for January through April 2008 as opposed to 28 during that period last year.
There was a 26 percent increase in burglaries, with 502 as opposed to last year's 399. There was also a jump of 15 percent in larceny/theft with 1,302 this year compared to 1,129 last year, and a 5 percent hike in car theft, with 364 cases compared to 346 last year. More police coming
Comey said he was pleased that violent crime went down in the first quarter of this year. However, he was alarmed by the rash of homicides that took place during the two violent April weekends.
Comey also said there were several significant arrests in connection with burglaries that took place in downtown Jersey City around Tenth Street in February.
There is more help on the way, he said.
"We will have 20 police officers coming out of our academy, and by the end of this month, they will be out doing patrols under the supervision of a sergeant," Comey said.
Comey is also pleased that the City Council approved an application at their Wednesday meeting for $1.6 million in state UEZ (Urban Enterprise Zone) money that will pay for 30 new officers, who are entering the city's police academy later this summer and graduating in December.
Those officers will start on the police force in January 2009.
Also according to Comey, the Police Department will introduce some new police initiatives to deal with crime in the Booker T. Washington and Montgomery Gardens housing complexes in Downtown Jersey City, where there have been several fatal shootings in recent years. On the watch for crime
Pam Andes is one of the founders of Downtown Jersey City Watch, what Andes calls a "resource group" of concerned residents who help other residents reach out to the police. They also do walks in various neighborhoods to take note of potential crime areas.
When interviewed about the crime stats, Andes said she expected the economy to contribute to a rise in crimes such as burglaries and drug dealing on various Downtown blocks.
"The challenge is having residents when they see something, to say something," Andes said. "People should attend their neighborhood association meetings to know what's going on in their neighborhoods or even meetings with their police precinct captain if they happen." Kids need to make peace
Dwayne Baskerville can attest to the Police Department's efforts to quell violence in the Booker T. Washington and Montgomery Gardens housing complexes. Baskerville is a Booker T. Washington resident who has been working with young people over the past year in both housing complexes to "broker a peace" between them to stop what he describes as "territorial violence" among youth.
"Well, the only way in my humble opinion that anyone can stop the violence is, come in and work with the kids," Baskerville said. Comments on this story can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.