LAW & PUBLIC SAFETY

Report Shows Violent Crime Down in NJ and Nationwide

Each year the state Attorney General’s office releases the Uniform Crime Report. It’s a compilation of crime statistics from both local police departments and state police. The latest report is out and NJTV News Correspondent David Cruz joined NJTV News Anchor Mary Alice Williams to take a look at what the numbers say.

Cruz: The report generally shows the crime rate improving in the Garden State. We looked at the numbers in four major categories: murder, robberies, aggravated assault and rape. Let’s take a look at what some of the numbers say. There were 354 murders, over 10,000 robberies; around 11,000 aggravated assaults and 950 rapes in the state in 2014, the last year that numbers are available. All of those represent a decrease from the previous year.

Williams: So, where are these murders taking place?

Cruz: These are the top three counties. Essex had 119 or 34 percent of the state’s murders — most of those in the city of Newark. Camden County was second with 44 or 12 percent — most of those in the city of Camden. Mercer County had 32 murders, or 9 percent of the state’s total. Cape May had one and Sussex had zero murders. An interesting stat here on who is committing these murders? The stats show 69 percent of those arrested are black. Thirty-one percent are white or Hispanic. Average age is 20 to 24 years old. Let’s compare that to murder victims: 63 percent of victims are black. Average age is 20 to 24 years old. It’s a black-on-black crime reality in urban centers like Newark, Jersey City, Paterson and Camden. By the way, the UCR says the clearance rate, that is those that are arrested on murders, is 60 percent statewide. That may sound low, but the UCR says that’s actually up 22 percent.

Williams: These stats are from 2014, and show a 12 percent drop in crime from 2013 to 2014. It’s tough to tell trends from year to year. We’re talking about violent crimes. Is there a longer-term trend we can gauge from these stats?

Cruz: There are, and they are still mostly positive, although not as dramatic as 2013 to 2014. Between 2010 and 2014 there were decreases in murder, robberies, aggravated assaults and rape.

Williams: How does New Jersey compare to the rest of the country?

Cruz: New Jersey is actually ahead of the nation in the top four categories: down 12 percent in murders, compared to just under 1 percent nationwide. Robberies down are down 13 percent in New Jersey; down 6 percent nationwide. Aggravated assaults, down 7 percent here, down 2 percent across the country and rape up 9 percent here, 2 percent across America. It should be noted that those numbers are just as likely to represent an increase in reporting rape, which law enforcement obviously sees as a positive statistic.

Williams: Very quickly, how are these statistics used in law enforcement?

Cruz: Well, it depends. Law enforcement uses them to set where they see that crimes are occurring. But politicians use them to say this is what we’re doing on crime and these positive numbers are actually good for them.