According to the New Jersey State Police, from January to April of this year, violent crime dropped by 39 percent, with 709 fewer 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. In announcing the crime statistics, city officials took 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, a year that saw dozens of murders. 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?" However, he said he saw no reason to hold a press conference to announce those positive statistics. Police Chief Thomas Comey said the "good news about the crime stats should be reported by all outlets because 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," he said. "I will continue to work to see it go down even further." Comey, along with Mayor Jerramiah Healy also credited the hiring of over 140 new police officers in the past two years. Yet, some of the good news doesn't quite add up. An analysis done by the Reporter found some errors in the number of incidents in various crime categories cited in the city's press release. Uniform numbers?
In the recent press release, the city claims huge decreases in specific crimes. The greatest drop was said to occur in homicides, which were down by 60 percent. In four months of 2006, there were 10 murders, compared to four in 2007. There was also a 50 percent decline in street robberies - 274 in 2007, down from 543 in January to April. 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, there were discrepancies between the numbers on the website and the numbers reported to the media. When calculated from the numbers posted on the Web site, the percentage drop in overall crime comes to 27.5 percent, as opposed to the reported 39 percent. What explains the differences in the crime numbers?
Eason, when asked about the numbers, said the information in the press release was sent to him from the Jersey City Police Department. He provided a copy of the sheet with the numbers sent to him. He also said the information was confirmed this year by the state. However, after looking into the matter, Eason found that the Police Department had accidentally omitted the April numbers before they sent the information to him. Police Chief Thomas Comey said a computer glitch 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 through April of this year was updated and correct. There is a process by which crime statistics are reported to the state's Attorney General Office. With Jersey City, the Police Department submits their uniform crime statistics to the Attorney General's office. It's all about good news
Comey said the "good news" about the crime stats should be reported by all outlets because 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," he said. "I will continue to work to see it go down even further." Comey, along with Mayor Jerramiah Healy credited the hiring of over 140 new police officers in the past two years. He also credited the COMPSTAT management system. Eason, in the press release, took the media to task for not reporting when crime is going down, but being 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 said that he saw newspeople 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 statistics if they were so important, 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 that he found fault mostly with the reporting of a local daily newspaper and not with media outlets in general. "You had the [local daily reporting] when we had a spike in crime from 2004 to 2005. 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 statistics. 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