Crime drops in much of Union County

Some areas see increases in reported incidents, but overall crime is down in most municipalities

UCL-Union cop car-CUNION COUNTY — The state released the 2012 Uniform Crime Report which showed the overall crime rate dropped four percent compared to 2011. This held true in Union County where only two municipalities saw an increase in overall crime.

The annual UCR, prepared by the state police, measures offenses committed from Jan. 1 through Dec. 31, 2012, but this year, unlike other years when it was released in late November or early December, the report came three days into the new year and failed to show the usual crime trends that defined this report in the past.

According to Paul Loriquet, a spokesman for the Attorney General’s Office, the state police ran into a problem with the report and were not able to complete it as usual. He said efforts to get the data out as soon as possible was the goal, with hopes trending would follow in the coming weeks.

In 2012, overall reported incidents in the state took a dive of more than 10 percent in Union County from 2011, but the nearly year-old numbers do not paint the entire picture, because the report also included statistics for 2013 that show crime increased in some areas.

The report showed crime dropped across the state 4.2 percent from 2011 to 2012 while violent crime also was down 4.6 percent. There were fewer robberies, aggravated assaults, larcenies, burglaries and motor vehicle thefts.

According to the report, robberies statewide decreased six percent from 12,128 to 11,382 between 2011 and 2012, and aggravated assaults went down four percent, from 13,489 to 12,938.

While this news was positive, the murder rate edged up slightly, with 375 reported incidents in 2011 to 387 in 2012. Rape also increased from 917 incidents in 2011 to 969 the following year.

“While the latest crime data shows a decrease in the overall crime rate in New Jersey, there is still considerable room for improvement,” said Acting Attorney General John Hoffman, adding that reducing the number of shootings and murders in our urban areas continues to be a priority for his office and the state police.

The state reported that Union County showed the largest drop in crime with a 10.7 percent decline overall in 2012. However, six counties, including Union County, had more than two dozen murders, with Essex County topping the list at 120. Union County had 28.

In Union County overall crime dropped from 19,059 incidents in 2011 to 17,027 in 2012, or a 10.7 percent change. However, police only cleared 3,170 of those incidents or 18.6 percent.

Violent crime saw a drop, going from 2,353 incidents in 2011 to 1,922 in 2012, while non-violent crime statistics showed the 2012 number at 11,581, considerably down over 2011 when there were 13,128 incidents.

Specifically, the state reported there were 35 homicides county-wide in 2011, but in 2012 that number dropped to 28. Rape, though was up, increasing by just four incidents.
Robbery, which included the use of a firearm, knife or other dangerous weapons, hands, fists or feet, dropped county wide from 1,267 incidents to 969. Burglaries also declined throughout the county, with 3,064 incidents reported in 2011 and 2,614 in 2012. Larceny and theft also dropped, going from 8,001 incidents to 7,132.
Motor vehicle theft, which included auto, trucks, buses and other vehicles, went down with 2,063 reported stolen in 2011 and a total of 1,835 in 2012. Of these numbers, 1,878 cars went missing in 2011 and 1,690 in 2012.

And while the statewide and countywide reports compared 2012 to 2011, the report also showed how individual towns stacked up against 2013.
While the majority of municipalities had less crime in 2013 when compared to 2012, Linden and Summit showed increases in overall crime compared to other towns.

In Linden there were no murders in 2013, as opposed to 2012 when there was one, and rape went down from four to none in 2013, but when it came to robbery, assault, burglary, larceny and car theft, the city experienced a sharp increase.

The city saw the most increase in larceny, jumping from 689 incidents in 2012 to 903 in 2013. Simple assaults also increased, with 331 reported in 2012 and 412 in 2013. Motor vehicle thefts also increased with that number increasing to 131. In 2012, 120 vehicles were stolen.

Overall the city had 1,433 violent and non-violent crimes in 2012, but saw that number increased to 1,751 in 2013, or an increase of 22.2 percent over the previous year. Of those incidents, police only cleared 312 from the books, or 17.8 percent.
Summit showed a modest increase in overall crime, going from 248 incidents in 2012 to 258, with no reportable murders or rapes. Of these incidents police managed to clear 76 incidents, or 29.5 percent.

However, incidents of assault increased by a small margin while forcible entry burglaries dropped from 23 in 2012 to 11 in 2013. Motor vehicle thefts showed the most increase in one year, with just one vehicle reported stolen in 2012 and 14 in 2013. Of the 14 reported incidents, 13 of these vehicles were cars.

The increase in motor vehicle thefts in Linden and Summit was surprising because all but two other towns either saw a drop in this type of crime, or stayed the same as in 2012.

Both Elizabeth and Hillside saw significant drops in vehicle thefts. Hillside went from 118 motor vehicle thefts in 2012 down to 61, or a 48.3 percent change, while Elizabeth dropped from 1,167 vehicles stolen in 2012 to 915 last year, or a 21.6 percent change.

Cranford was one of the other municipalities that saw an increase in motor vehicle thefts, going from five in 2012 to 10 last year, or a 100 percent increase. Of the 10 vehicles stolen in 2013, police reported nine were autos. On the other hand, the township saw a significant drop in burglaries, with 50 reported in 2012 and that number dropping to 20 in 2013.

Overall, Roselle and Hillside showed the greatest drop in crime in the LocalSource readership area.
For example, Hillside saw a 38.3 percent drop in overall crime, with the total number of incidents going from 844 in 2012 to 521 in 2013. Although there was one murder in Hillside in 2013, opposed to none the previous year, in all other areas, this municipality saw their numbers drop significantly.

Roselle had a 24.2 percent decrease in crime, or 649 incidents in 2012 and 492 in 2013. The most important decrease was in the number of murders, which dropped from four to none in 2013. Other areas where crime was on the decline were burglaries, which dropped from 129 to
97 incidents in 2013, robberies, which went from 39 incidents to 19 and larceny, which went from 229 incidents down to 170.
The spike in vehicle theft in some towns reflected an overall increase in a different vehicular crime seeing a drastic increase in the state: carjacking.

In 2007 there were just 208 reported carjackings in all of New Jersey, according to a New York Times article from Dec. 28. But in neighboring Essex County in 2012 there were 345 in the city of Newark alone.

The New York Times reported as of Dec. 28, 2013, there were 475 carjacking incidents in Essex County, the vast majority in Newark. In contrast, the article said, New York City had seen 159 carjackings and there had been a general decline in this type of theft the last five years.

Efforts to address the problem have yet to yield significant results. Responding to the spike in carjackings, in 2010 the state created four regional task forces composed of municipal, county, state and federal law enforcement personnel, to assist with investigations. However, these task forces have dealt mainly with investigating carjackings rather than preventing them, officials said.

Not helping the situation is the fact that several years ago the prosecutor’s office disbanded the Essex-Union Auto Theft Task Force, bringing the program to screeching halt after 19 years.

The task force managed to not only recover 7,500 vehicles worth $25 million, but also became the focus of a 2008 A&E cable program that ran two seasons titled “Jacked: Auto Theft Task Force.”

The task force saw its demise when Gov. Chris Christie made cuts to the annual $250,000 annual state grant that kept them financially afloat.

Without funding there was nothing anyone could do, so it was disbanded in 2010. However, Essex County bowed out of the task force in 1999, never giving a reason for that decision. Since then car theft has increased steadily in both counties, with carjacking increasing alarmingly so in neighboring Essex County.