Crime is down in SOMA, but county crime numbers remain high

SOUTH ORANGE / MAPLEWOOD, NJ — Late last month the New Jersey State Police released the official 2014 Uniform Crime Report for New Jersey. This annual report is based on crime statistics submitted to the state Uniform Crime Reporting System by every New Jersey law enforcement agency. The report is compiled and then approved by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

As of 2014, Essex County is leading the state in murders and in overall crime, although these numbers are not reflected in the Maplewood and South Orange numbers, which have decreased from 2013 to 2014. Most of the number-inflating crimes in Essex County occurred in Irvington and Newark, with many crimes also occurring in Bloomfield, East Orange and Orange.

As required by law, all law enforcement agencies in New Jersey submit monthly and annual summary crime reports to the state. The 2014 report compiles data from 536 agencies, including municipal and county police; university and college campus police; prosecutor’s offices; sheriff’s departments, and county park police. Agencies report the number of known offenses of murder, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, larceny and theft, and motor vehicle theft — which are known as the “index offenses.” Other crimes, such as manslaughter, arson, fraud, simple assault and others, are also reported, though considered “non-index offenses.” Complaints determined to be unfounded are eliminated from the report’s numbers.

The results of the crime report index, an audit of crime throughout the state, are used in administrative, planning and operational decisions in each jurisdiction. Additionally, the State Police Uniform Crime Reporting Unit provides advice to jurisdictions based on the data.

According to the 2014 Uniform Crime Report, Maplewood Township saw a reduction in the overall crime index total, with 529 crimes in 2013 and only 450 in 2014 — a reduction of 79 crimes. Maplewood experienced three more violent crimes, with 45 in 2014, and 82 fewer nonviolent crimes, with 405 in 2014. In 2014, Maplewood saw zero murders or rapes, 36 robberies, nine aggravated assaults, 75 burglaries, 287 larcenies, 43 motor vehicle thefts and one case of arson.

Compared with the county’s numbers, Maplewood experienced 1.1 percent of the county’s overall robberies, 0.5 percent of the aggravated assaults, 1.8 percent of burglaries, 2.7 percent of larcenies, 1.1 percent of motor vehicle thefts and 1.3 percent of arson cases.

South Orange Village also saw a reduction in the overall crime index total, with 364 crimes in 2013 and only 277 crimes in 2014 — a reduction of 87 crimes. South Orange also experienced 13 fewer violent crimes, with 24 in 2014, but 74 more nonviolent crimes, with 253 in 2014. In 2014, South Orange saw zero murders, one rape, 19 robberies, four aggravated assaults, 36 burglaries, 190 larcenies, 27 motor vehicle thefts and zero cases of arson.

Compared with the county numbers, South Orange experienced 0.9 percent of the county’s overall rapes, 0.6 percent of robberies, 0.2 percent of aggravated assaults, 0.9 percent of burglaries, 1.8 percent of larcenies and 0.7 percent of motor vehicle thefts.

Between 2013 and 2014, Maplewood increased its number of total police employees by three, from 71 in 2013 to 74 in 2014; and South Orange increased its number of total police employees by two, from 52 in 2013 to 54 in 2014.

For reference, in 2014, Newark accounted for 78.9 percent of the county’s overall murders, 43.8 percent of rapes, 63.8 percent of robberies, 57.4 percent of the aggravated assaults, 44 percent of burglaries, 45.6 percent of larcenies, 60.3 percent of motor vehicle thefts and 52.6 percent of arson cases.

Following the trend of its municipalities, in 2014, Essex County saw a 7-percent reduction in overall crime from 2013, with murder decreasing by 19 percent; robbery decreasing by 18 percent; aggravated assault decreasing by 1 percent; burglary decreasing by 8 percent; larceny and theft decreasing by 3 percent, and motor vehicle theft decreasing by 12 percent. However, rape increased by 10 percent. The county saw a decrease in violent crime from 2013 to 2014, as well as a decrease in nonviolent crime.

According to the report, in 2014 Essex County again led the state in murders with 119 — an improvement from 2013’s high of 147. Again, Essex County was the only county to have more than 100 murders; the second-highest murder rate was in Camden County, with 44 murders. Sussex and Hunterdon counties tied for the lowest murder rate, with no murders in 2014.

Essex County also led the state in carjackings, with 147; 113 vehicles were recovered, though only three persons were arrested. Mercer County was second with 16 carjackings; Camden and Union counties tied for third place with 10 carjackings each.

Compared to statewide crime, Essex County experienced 33.6 percent of all the state’s murders, 11.8 percent of rapes, 30.2 percent of robberies, 15.9 percent of aggravated assaults, 12.6 percent of burglaries, 9.5 percent of larcenies and 34.9 percent of motor vehicle thefts. There are 22 counties in the state.

In comparing data from 2013 and 2014, Essex County saw an overall 6-percent reduction in drug arrests, with a 14-percent reduction in drug-sale and drug-manufacturing arrests, and a 4-percent decrease in drug-possession and drug-use arrests.

Essex County police agencies made 4,626 arrests for index offenses, arresting 59 suspects for murder, 16 for rape; 873 for robbery; 1,007 for aggravated assault; 569 for burglary; 2,053 for larceny and theft, and 49 for motor vehicle thefts. In addition, Essex County police agencies arrested 27,681 suspects for non-index offenses, for a grand total of 32,307 arrests. Essex County police agencies arrested more suspects than police agencies in any other county in 2014; the second-highest number of arrests was in Camden County, with 28,979 arrests — 3,328 fewer arrests.

Essex County’s municipalities collectively employ more municipal police officers than any other county in New Jersey. With 2,431 police officers in 2014, Essex County’s officers account for 12.4 percent of the state’s municipal police officers. For every 1,000 Essex County inhabitants, there are 3.1 police officers, the highest ratio in the state.

Similarly, Essex County’s municipalities employ more municipal police employees — civilians who are not officers — than any other county in New Jersey. With 617 civilian police employees in 2014, Essex County’s police employees account for 15.2 percent of the state’s civilian municipal police employees. For every 1,000 Essex County inhabitants, there are 3.9 police employees.

As counties like Essex see decreases in overall crime, so does the state. Overall, New Jersey saw a 12-percent decrease in murders when comparing data from 2013 to data from 2014; a 9-percent increase in rape; a 13-percent decrease in robbery; a 7-percent decrease in aggravated assault; an 11-percent decrease in burglary; a 5-percent decrease in larceny and theft, and a 15-percent decrease of motor vehicle theft. With all crime reduced by 8 percent, the state saw a 10-percent reduction in violent crime and a 7-percent reduction in nonviolent crime. According to the report, the increase in sex crimes is attributed to a change in protocol that resulted in more comprehensive reporting of sex crimes.

One section of the report provides an analysis of the 24-hour crime cycle in New Jersey and holds that in every 24-hour period, there is one murder, two rapes, two arsons, 29 robberies, 31 aggravated assaults, 32 vehicle thefts, 87 burglaries and 306 larcenies. Similarly, a violent crime is committed approximately every 22 minutes and 48 seconds, and a nonviolent crime is committed approximately every three minutes and 24 seconds.

The report shows that those most likely to be victims of murder are ages 20 to 24, male and black, and that the most likely murder offenders are in the same demographic and likely to use firearms. Of the 354 murders in New Jersey in 2014, 256 — or 72.3 percent — were committed with handguns, shotguns or rifles. Additionally, adult rape arrests increased by 7 percent and juvenile rape arrests increased by 21 percent; the most likely rape offenders are ages 25 to 29, male and white.

Only 21.8 percent of crimes in New Jersey in 2014 were cleared by police, though that is a 3-percent increase from 2013. Law enforcement agencies cleared 59.9 percent of murders, 31.4 percent of rapes, 24.6 percent of robberies, 52.9 percent of aggravated assaults, 13.8 percent of burglaries, 22.2 percent of larcenies and thefts, and 5.6 percent of motor vehicle thefts.

Data additionally shows that, of those arrested for crimes in the state, 9 percent were juveniles, with juvenile defendants accounting for 11 percent of violent crime arrests and 8 percent of nonviolent crime arrests. In all, 38,851 persons were arrested in New Jersey in 2014 for crimes.

“Our latest crime data shows reductions in most major categories of crime. While crime rates can be influenced by any number of variables, there is no question that an important part of the equation is the skill and dedication of the men and women of our law enforcement community,” acting N.J. Attorney Gen. Robert Lougy said in a release. “I am encouraged by this downward trend in the overall crime index and violence crime. Going forward, our commitment is to continue working collaboratively with our law enforcement partners at every level to further reduce crime in New Jersey.”

The report also included a comparison of New Jersey’s comparative crime rates with the nation’s and the collective Northeastern states, which include: Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Vermont, New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania.

While New Jersey saw a 12-percent decrease in murder, the country saw a 0.5-percent decrease and the Northeast saw a 5.5-percent decrease. As for rape, New Jersey saw a 9-percent increase, the country a 3-percent increase and the Northeast a 10.8-percent decrease. For robbery, New Jersey saw a 13-percent decrease, the country a 5.6-percent decrease and the Northeast an 11.1-percent decrease. For aggravated assault, New Jersey saw a 7-percent decrease, the country a 2-percent increase and the Northeast a 3.6-percent decrease. For burglary, New Jersey saw an 11-percent decrease, the country a 10.5-percent decrease and the Northeast a 13.1-percent decrease. For larceny and theft, New Jersey saw a 5-percent decrease, the country a 2.7-percent decrease and the Northeast a 5.5-percent decrease. Lastly, in motor vehicle theft, New Jersey saw a 15-percent decrease, the country a 1.5-percent decrease and the Northeast a 6.7-percent decrease.