The recent release of the state’s Uniform Crime Report brought the good news that Jersey City saw the biggest decrease in crime among Hudson County municipalities between 2008 and 2009. Statistics for 2010 will not be available until several months into 2011.
The 2008-2009 report, which came out just this past Nov. 18, is prepared by the State Police Uniform Crime Reporting Unit. It tracks four categories of violent crime: murder, rape, robbery and aggravated assault. It also tracks three nonviolent crimes: burglary, larceny, and motor vehicle theft. The UCR also contains separate statistical reports on bias crimes, carjacking, and domestic violence.
Do you think crime has increased or decreased in Jersey City?
The report showed that for Jersey City, the amount of overall incidents decreased by 20 percent, from 9,913, in 2008 to 7,920 in 2009.
Violent crimes in Jersey City fell from 2,314 to 1,827, and nonviolent crimes from 7,598 to 6,093. In the violent crime category, robberies fell from 1,268 to 885 and aggravated assaults shrunk from 972 in 2008 to 865 in 2009. However, the number of rapes stayed the same at 49.
The one crime increase was for murders, with 28 in 2009, two more than the previous year.
In the non-violent crimes group, burglaries dropped from 1,875 in 2008 to 1,400 in 2009, larceny/theft dipped from 4,554 to 3,849, and car thefts dived from 1,169 to 844.
The report comes as the police department is planning to lay off 80 officers and demote 20 others as part of a proposed $8 million cut in their 2011 calendar year budget.
Police officers came to the City Council meeting on Tuesday and warned that eliminating the officers could increase crime numbers for the future.
And some residents were skeptical about the numbers, saying they don’t reflect reality.
Numbers that please them
Mayor Jerramiah Healy credited the crime decrease between 2008 and 2009 to the “ongoing efforts of the Jersey City Police Department” and said it will persist into the future as long as he is mayor.
“We remain a constant thorn in the side of drug dealers, burglars, and robbers in our community.” – Police Officer John Theodoroleas
Hudson County Prosecutor Edward DeFazio chalked up the drop in the crime numbers to “very good cooperation” among law enforcement agencies, including local, state, and federal.
He said that regarding the increase in homicides, it was not a “completely accurate barometer” to judge overall crime in the city. He also said it was worth looking at the arrests of organized gang members in 2008 and 2009, such as 52 alleged members of the Hoover Street Gangsta Crips. He said that these arrests have tempered shootings and drug dealing in the city.
Police Chief Thomas Comey said the lowering of crime is a “credit to the fine work by the men and women of the police force.” But he lamented the possible layoffs.
“It’s a reality of these tough economic times that layoffs have to be on the table,” Comey said. “But we would take the officers off the streets who are making it possible to stop these crimes.”
Police officers were in full force at Tuesday’s council meeting to protest the proposed layoffs, which would take most if not all officers with three years or less experience off patrol duty.
Some of those young officers spoke out about how crime would go up if they and their colleagues lost their jobs, as well as taking shots at Mayor Healy and Business Administrator Jack Kelly for proposing the cuts.
Officer Nathan Montanez, who has about three years experience, said police budgets should not be subject to same cutting as other city agencies and laid out the possible repercussions of the pending layoffs.
“If these officers are furloughed and they leave for other employment, then the knowledge and experience the department has paid for has been lost forever,” Montanez said.
John Theodoroleas, a four-year veteran, said a cut in the police will create an opportunity for more crime.
“We remain a constant thorn in the side of drug dealers, burglars, and robbers in our community,” Theodoroleas said.
Doesn’t believe decrease
Natalie Webb is a homeowner on the city’s west side, near Lincoln Park. She spoke out at Tuesday’s meeting against potential police layoffs.
Webb recalled being attacked on her block back in 2008. She said the police were immediately responsive and the attacker was soon apprehended and convicted. At the time, the force had over 900 officers.
After the meeting, Webb spoke about the UCR and questioned the decreases.
“When you look at violent and non-violent crime going down in Jersey City, you wonder, where is it going down?” Webb said. “Crime in downtown can go down about 10 percent in downtown but go up 20 percent in the Bergen Lafayette area.”
A policeman with about 20 years on the force, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said after Tuesday’s meeting that while he has read the report, he does not believe the decrease. He said he “sees more crime” while on patrol than he has in past years. He also said it will “get worse” if the layoffs go ahead as planned.
Ricardo Kaulessar can be reached at email@example.com.
Poll closes Thursday, Dec. 2