The good news is that police have been “clearing” or closing more cases than before, said Hoboken Police Chief Ken Ferrante.
Every year, police departments around the country submit data on their town’s crime to state police and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).
According to information released by Ferrante for 2017, violent crimes rose over a year, including homicides, rapes, and robberies.
In 2017, there was one homicide, an increase from zero the previous year. Generally, Hoboken vacillates between one and zero homicides, and has gone several years in the last decade without such a crime.
Last year, there were 10 rapes, an increase from two in 2016. There were also 32 reported instances of robbery, an increase from 22 in 2016.
The only decrease in violent crime was in aggravated assaults, from 97 in 2016 to 88 in 2017.
Non-violent crimes increased 12.8 percent, largely due to a 12.6 percent increase in larceny offenses such as package and bicycle thefts (911 last year compared to 809 in 2016). There was also a 16.3 percent increase in burglaries (121 last year compared to 104 in 2016) and a 6.7 percent increase in vehicle thefts (32, up from 30).
According to Ferrante, larceny is a theft from outside such as a package from a stoop or a bike from a fence. It also includes identity theft and shoplifting. Burglary is when an intruder enters an enclosed structure, whether it be a house, car, or garage, and a theft happens from inside. Robbery differs in that it involves theft involving a threat or weapon.
Crime in Hoboken has been largely steady. In 2015, there were zero homicides, nine rapes, 34 robberies, 102 aggravated assaults, 92 burglaries, 776 larcenies, and 38 motor vehicle thefts.
Why the increase?
Ferrante said there was an increase in the city’s crime for a lot of reasons, but he specifically pointed to new laws that make it too easy for criminals to strike again. He said that bail was eliminated for all but the most violent offenders, meaning less violent criminals were released quickly without needing to post bail.
“2017 was the first year of criminal justice reform in New Jersey,” said Ferrante. “Prior to criminal justice reform, a repeat offender was arrested and transported to the Hudson County Correctional Facility and held until their court date. Now they are released with a summons until they appear in court, which has them back on the streets faster.”
The reform was supposed to ensure that fewer poor low-level defendants who couldn’t afford bail no longer sit in county jails. It also means that wealthy violent offenders can’t just post bail to be released. A computer algorithm used by judges uses data such as past offenses to keep only the most dangerous behind bars, regardless of their socioeconomic status. But the reviews have been mixed.
Ferrante said it’s too early to tell how well the reform will work.
He said another contributing factor is the increase of ecommerce. More people are having packages delivered to their homes, which provides opportunities for potential thieves.
When it comes to an increase in violent crimes such as rape, Ferrante says he believes that due to education, more victims are willing to come forward and report the crime than before.
“My number one theory is that there has been a major push nationwide and regionally and locally through education, which I believe are getting victims to feel comfortable enough to speak out and have faith that law enforcement will do everything possible to help them,” said Ferrante. “We are going to help you.”
Sexual assaults (such as a stranger grabbing someone’s buttocks) are not counted as rape in the standardized FBI report, so the rape numbers refer to any type of penetration into a part of the body, whether it be with genitalia, hands, or objects. Sexual assault is unwanted touching above or below clothes.
So if 10 rapes occurred in Hoboken last year, why wasn’t the public notified of a rapist in the area?
According to Ferrante, there could be various reasons.
“We have executive orders from the AG on what needs to be disclosed to the media, and instances like domestic violence, rape and sexual assaults are typically considered confidential,” said Ferrante. He added that potentially publicizing a rape could “potentially do more harm to the victim.”
He said the Hudson County Prosecutor’s Office is considered the lead agent in those types of crimes, and they determine what to share with the media.
Of the 10 reported rape cases, six have been cleared, giving the department a 60 percent closure rate, which is above the state average of 29.6 percent, he said.
The single homicide took place in January of last year in the Hoboken Housing Authority. Adrian Rivera, 18, was shot and killed in his home. The investigation has already led to the arrest of three men from Jersey City who knew the victim, as they had attended the same elementary school.
The Hoboken Police Department has an overall closure rate of 34.2 percent of cases over the last year and responded to an unprecedented more than 100,000 calls to service.
“Typically the barometer is, anything over 20 percent is good,” said Ferrante. “This is the highest number we’ve had in the last few years.”
The Police Department also saw 53.1 percent closure rate in robberies, a 50 percent closure rate in aggravated assaults, and a 54.5 percent closure rate in burglaries. The only closure rates below state average were in motor vehicle thefts and thefts, which were 15.6 percent compared to 19.7 percent and 3.1 percent compared to 5.4 percent, respectively.
Ferrante attributes the closure rates to his officers and an increase in personnel and hours in the Investigations Bureau. He also credited an increase in population.
“We have officers on the street who know what is going on and who don’t just want to write a report but take the time digging,” he said. “We expanded our Investigations Bureau close to double after I became chief.
He added that with more development, there are also more eyes on the streets.
Marilyn Baer can be reached at email@example.com.