Bowers reports noted drop in crime rates in Irvington

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IRVINGTON, NJ — Irvington has been experiencing a significant drop in crime across the board since 2014, according to Public Safety Director Tracy Bowers.

According to the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report, while 815 violent crimes were reported in Irvington in 2013, just 230 violent crimes were reported in Irvington in 2020. And, while 1,967 property crimes were reported in Irvington in 2012, the city saw 1,008 such crimes in 2020, a nearly 50-percent reduction.

One issue that Bowers has recently seen more of in Irvington is suppressible crimes.

“There’s a difference between a car theft and leaving your keys in your car, making it easier for it to be stolen; this is an example of a suppressible crime,” Bowers said. “A simple solution to this problem is to carry your car and house keys with you and keep them in a safe place.”

Despite some of these instances of suppressible crimes occurring in the township, crime overall has decreased in Irvington, Bowers said. However, according to Bowers, many civilians still don’t feel safe. He explained that actual crime statistics and figures often differ from the perception of crime among Irvington residents.

“If you’re speaking to a recent victim of robbery, no matter what you tell them about lowering percentages and rates of robbery, it won’t matter to them because they don’t feel safe,” Bowers said. “You could give them a PowerPoint presentation on how crime has lowered over the past five years, but it won’t change their opinion, especially when they’ve either been a victim or witnessed someone being the victim of a crime.”

According to Bowers, the issue of actual crime rates versus perception is a nationwide issue and won’t be solved without the help of residents. Bowers urged residents to be vigilant and to report crimes as they occur.

“If civilians help to report or identify crimes happening in their neighborhoods, we can fix a lot of these issues, because we can only send officers to where we know crimes are occurring,” Bowers said.

This is a method known as data-driven policing; police officers are placed to patrol areas where a high volume of crimes are being reported and investigated. But there’s another problem with this safety initiative, according to Bowers.

“There’s a national shortage of people who want to be police officers due to events that have occurred over the past three years,” Bowers said. “After the murder of George Floyd, many people don’t feel safe around police officers. There are parents telling their kids not to join the force.”

This national shortage has created issues with maintaining and upholding public safety. Bowers is concerned for the future of policing and recruitment.

“We go down to the local high school for recruiting and outreach efforts, but we’re not seeing any growth in residents who want to join our ranks,” Bowers said. “Social media and cameras are a new development that our officers are currently dealing with. So public scrutiny is at an all-time high, which worries me for current and future law enforcement officials.”

In addition to this list of concerns for modern policing, there is also the issue of a generational gap between current and new officers entering the force. Bowers expresses concern about whether or not many new recruits will pass the required steps to become an officer.

“Not only do new recruits have to pass the required written tests to become an officer, but they also have to pass a background check, which we have no control over,” Bowers said. “Then they must pass six months of academy training before they can finally join the ranks as an officer. For new cops, we must meet them where they are and bring them along.”

Bowers said he also pushes back on current officers who may rest on their laurels and their years on the force to claim advancement.

“Twenty years on the force with no effort is equivalent to nothing,” Bowers said. “Maximum effort from every officer is what will continue to reduce crime.

Bowers has advice for how Irvington residents can help reduce crime in their neighborhoods.

“In addition to reporting or identifying crimes in your area, keep your neighborhoods clean. Crime is deterred when residents take care of the township and show that they care about living here,” Bowers said. “Mayor (Tony) Vauss has a saying of ‘Keep Irvington clean and safe.’ I would reverse it to ‘Keep Irvington safe and clean.’ That will increase public safety. So report crimes and keep the streets you live on clean.”

Photos by Javon Ross