UNION COUNTY, NJ — According to the 2013 crime statistics released by the state last week, there was a crime every two minutes and 43 seconds in New Jersey. In a 24-hour period that resulted in one murder, 2 rapes, 33 robberies, 33 aggravated assaults, 98 burglaries, 323 larcenies, 38 vehicle thefts and two arsons.
The annual Uniform Crime Report, prepared by the state police, measured offenses committed from Jan. 1, 2013, through Dec. 31, 2013, but this year the report came out even later than usual. Last year the state police released the UCR report in January, compared to previous years when it came out in the fall.
Statewide the overall crime rate decreased by 7.7 percent compared to 2012 when it went down only 4.2 percent, but the Department of Law and Safety noted that preliminary data for 2014 showed a 9.6 percent drop in violent crime compared to 2013.
Non-violent crime also decreased by 8 percent, the lowest it has been in a decade. Still, Acting Attorney General John Hoffman felt more could be done.
“The latest crime data includes some encouraging indicators, but it also suggests there is room for improvement and still much work to be done,” the acting attorney general said in a statement, adding “we continue to expand on and strengthen our efforts to reduce violent crime, particularly in the urban centers.”
Hoffman also pointed out that the state is continuing to combat gun crimes, prescription drug abuse and illegal drug trafficking.
“And we continue to target violent street gang activity,” he added, saying “we are always striving to make New Jersey citizens safer and notwithstanding any favorable statistical trends, there is no room for complacency.”
There were 401 murders reported statewide in 2013, a 4 percent increase compared to the 387 murders reported in 2012. Officials reported the highest number of murders in the month of July at 49, while March had the lowest at 20. More murders occurred on a highway or street, with 54 reported, while 18 percent took place in single-family dwellings and 6 percent in multi-family apartments.
The 20- to 24-year-old age group accounted for 22 percent of these homicides, with firearms used in 73 percent of the incidents, knives or other cutting instruments in 13 percent, physical force in 5 percent and blunt objects in 3 percent.
Domestic violence-related incidents accounted for 44 of these murders, while drug or gang-related homicides came to 11 percent. A total of 238 people were arrested for murder in 2013, a 7-percent increase compared to 2012.
In 21 percent of the incidents, the murderer was a friend or acquaintance of the victim while 14 percent were strangers and 4 percent relatives.
However, while overall crime dropped statewide, murder increased for the fifth straight year, with more than half of the violent crimes taking place in the six major cities of Elizabeth, Newark, Jersey City, Trenton, Paterson and Camden.
In fact, violent crime in these major hubs, which included murder, rape, robbery and aggravated assault, has continued
to rise over the last decade.
When LocalSource compared a decade of crime reports it showed murders and robberies alone increased by double digit percentages even though violent crime statewide declined by one percent.
Helping this slight drop in 2013 was that rape decreased by 16 percent in 2013, going from 1,038 incidents in 2012 to 874 incidents; aggravated assault also went down 7 percent from 12,933 to 12,090; and motor vehicle theft took a 17 percent dive from 16,471 to 13,709 reported thefts.
However, these numbers can be deceptive because they do not reflect what might have taken place in a particular county or municipality. Those numbers may actually reflect an increase over the previous year.
For example, there were 12,663 incidents of crime reported to Union County Police in 2013, a 6 percent decrease when compared to 2012. Violent crimes, according to the report, increased in the county by 3 percent, while non-violent crimes decreased by eight percent. Non-violent crimes include burglary, larceny-theft, and motor vehicle theft.
The UCR showed there were 23.3 victims of crime for every 1,000 permanent residents in the county, a decrease of 6 percent compared to 2012.
Murder statistics also decreased in the county, going from 35 homicides in 2011 to 28 in 2012, and 20 in 2013. Despite this, the county still ranked the sixth highest in the state when it came to this particular violent crime, with the majority of the crimes taking place in Elizabeth.
Essex County topped the list with 147 murders, while Camden had 69, Mercer, 41, Hudson, 24 and Passaic, 22.
The county did see a slight decline in rapes, with 74 reported incidents in 2012 compared to 72 in 2013. Robbery, though, climbed in 2013, going from 971 incidents in 2012 to 980. Burglary incidents decreased significantly, going from 2,620 in 2012 to 2,222 the following year. Aggravated assault incidents, though, rose with 846 reportable crimes in 2012 compared to 910 in 2013.
The total value of property stolen in Union County came to $34.2 million, but only 38 percent was ever recovered. This included 1,651 vehicles stolen in 2013, compared to the 1,835 in 2012.
In 2013 there were 18,708 people arrested in the county, an increase of 9 percent when compared to 2012.
The report also showed how individual towns in the county stacked up compared to 2012 data.
Linden was one of the municipalities that saw an increase in overall crime, going from 1,107 incidents to 1,349. However, the increases were in the non-violent area, with burglaries increasing from 162 to 182, larceny from 689 to 904 and vehicle thefts from 121 to 132.
Arsons also increased in Linden, with the city going from one incident to 4. Whether this had anything to do with the city having 157 police officers in 2012 to 140 the following year is unknown.
Roselle, with a population of 21,299, was among the towns that saw a rise in overall crime in 2013, with incidents going from 488 in 2012 to 515. Violent crime incidents, however, went down from 73 in 2012 to 69 in 2013, with robbery dropping from 40 incidents in 2012 to 31. It should be noted, though, that in 2011 this municipality reported 649 overall crime incidents, a number which has significantly dropped since then.
Non-violent crime in this municipality increased, with burglary leaping from 129 incidents to 153, but vehicle theft dropped slightly from 56 to 54 incidents.
Summit also saw their overall crime go up from 208 to 230 incidents; however, violent crime was down, especially when it came to aggravated assaults, which went down from 9 incidents to four.
However, larceny went up from 165 reported incidents in 2012 to 177, while vehicle thefts leaped from two in 2012 to 18 in 2013 and there was one reported arson compared to none in 2012.
Springfield was another town where the overall crime index increased from 209 incidents to 223. In the violent crime category, robberies doubled in this township of 16,862, going from 3 incidents to 6, while aggravated assaults went from zero in 2012 to 5 in 2013. Burglaries also increased from 29 incidents to 38, but vehicle theft stayed the same at 14.
Towns showing a drop in crime included Elizabeth, Rahway, Union, Roselle Park, Hillside, Cranford, Clark and Kenilworth but each of these towns also saw increases in some areas.
For example, Elizabeth’s overall crime index dropped from 5,439 incidents to 4,725, but violent crime only went down from 1,027 to 1,021. Non-violent crime saw the largest drop, going from 4,412 reported incidents in 2012 to 3,704 in 2013.
Murder also took a dive in this city of 126,458, going from 14 to 7, while rapes stayed the same at 38. Robberies, though, climbed from 539 in 2012 to 558 in 2013, but aggravated assault dropped from 437 reported incidents to 418.
Union’s overall crime dropped from 1,285 incidents to 1,229, but in the non-violent area, robberies went up in this municipality of 57,124 from 46 to 61, but rape was down from five incidents to just two. The township saw the most significant drop when it came to burglaries, going from 185 reported incidents in 2012 to 157.
Larceny incidents also declined from 882 incidents to 846, while arson cases dropped from six to one. Vehicle thefts remained about the same dropping slightly from 134 in 2012 to 132 in 2013.
Cranford, a township of 23,016, saw overall crime drop from 222 incidents in 2012 to 191 in 2013. Robberies also declined from seven to four, aggravated assaults went down from five to zero in 2013.
Hillside was another town that saw their overall crime rate drop, going from 690 incidents to 658, a trend that began in 2011 when the township had 844 incidents. Robberies, though, increased from 49 to 54 in this community of 21,603, while there was one murder in 2013 compared to none in 2012.
Non-violent crime decreased in some areas, most significantly when it came to motor vehicle theft. According to the report the township had 118 vehicle thefts reported in 2012, but in 2013 that number went down to 102.
Kenilworth, a borough of 8,025 residents, saw overall crime drop from 181 incidents to 156, notably in the non-violent area. Burglaries were down from 16 to 11 in 2013, while larceny also dropped from 148 reported incidents