Crime is down in most categories in Secaucus, except for certain types of theft.
There were no murders or rapes reported in the town in either 2012 or 2013. The number of robberies dropped from 16 in 2012 to seven in 2013, assaults decreased from 87 to 75, and motor vehicle thefts decreased from 49 to 41. Burglaries increased from 36 to 38 over the same period, while larceny jumped from 377 to 427.
Officials noted an increase in arrests, from 222 in 2013 to 241 in 2013, crediting technology in part, including surveillance video cameras that provide visual evidence of crimes and criminals.
Robberies, assaults and motor vehicle thefts decreased from 2012 to 2013.
Robbery, assault down
If force or fear is involved in the commission of a theft, it is considered a robbery. Robberies in Secaucus declined by more than 50 percent in 2013, from 16 to 7.
Many of the robberies involved commercial businesses. “In 2012 we had a few shopliftings where, while the people were fleeing, they assaulted store security,” said Cerny. “You might have somebody with a warrant and they’re about to be caught. They’re going to fight to get away. That constitutes robbery.”
(Shoplifting without assaults or weapons is counted as larceny.)
The town also sees occasional hotel robberies. “Once in a while there’ll be a spree where gas stations get robbed,” added Cerny.
The number of assaults also decreased in 2013, from 87 to 75. That number includes aggravated assaults involving serious bodily injury or permanent disfigurement, which dropped from 11 to 7.
“We have a lot of disputes where people call and then they end up signing assault charges against the other person,” said Cerny. “Then the other person will countersign so you have two charges out of one incident. Or during a domestic dispute there’ll be an assault charge. It’s not like we’re having stabbings or people hit with baseball bats.”
Also down in 2013 were motor vehicle thefts, from 49 to 41. Cerny credits police patrols for part of that decrease, as well as technology. “Cars are harder to steal these days, with the anti-theft devices,” he said.
Burglary and larceny up
Burglary and larceny are the two categories that increased from 2012 to 2013. Burglary is defined as thefts from buildings. Larceny includes shoplifting, or thefts from vehicles or purses.
Larcenies increased by over 13 percent in 2013, from 377 to 427. That is due in large part to the number of mall stores in town, especially big-box stores, which are major targets for thieves.
Burglaries went up slightly from 36 to 38. In 2012, about two-thirds of the burglaries were of commercial businesses, while in 2013 about two-thirds were residential.
The value of stolen property increased substantially from 2012 to 2013, from about $1.4 million to $2.1 million. “A few items can make that spike,” said Cerny. “You could have a couple trucks stolen from the industrial areas and that’ll make that number go way up.”
At the same time the amount of stolen property recovered increased from $465,000 to over $1 million.
New initiatives to combat crime
Among the initiatives Cerny is implementing are new police units to fight specific types of crime.
“We’re undergoing a restructuring right now,” he said. “We’re going to have an anti-crime detail. It’ll be plainclothes officers in unmarked cars looking for street crime and quality of life issues. We had that years ago and it was disbanded. We’re bringing that back.”
The anti-crime detail is designed to defend against burglaries and robberies. Also, “we’re starting to see advertisements for escorts in town, and that’s one of our plans with the anti-crime,” he said. “We want to be proactive in the detective bureau.”
Traffic is another major concern in town. “We now have a fulltime traffic division,” said Cerny. Included will be a “crash reduction unit” to define and address problem situations, like areas needing new traffic signs.
“The mayor and Town Council, they understand our needs,” said Cerny. “They keep hiring officers and because of that we’re able to expand into these divisions. That’s key. They’re on our side.”
Also forthcoming will be video cameras to increase oversight of certain areas. “They will be strategically placed throughout town,” said Cerny. “Probably in our parks. Maybe in our catwalks where you go over Route 3.”
Currently Deputy Chief Cerny is leading the department through an accreditation process with the state. This entails reviewing and revising all department procedures according to standards provided by the attorney general.
An independent contractor is assisting with the overhaul, which is expected to take a year. At the end of the process the department will be assessed and if it passes, it will be certified by the New Jersey State Association of Chiefs of Police, which will reduce its insurance premiums, among other things.
As part of the process, the contractor has established an online communications and training system for officers. There will be 13 training modules in 2014. The first, scheduled to launch on July 4, is an ethics class.
“It’s a perfect way to start,” said Cerny. “All of our 60 officers will be participating in this, and there’ll be a test at the end of each module.”
Additional modules include vehicle pursuit, use of force, and blood-borne pathogens.
Among Cerny’s other goals is to create an independent police department website to provide up-to-the-minute information to residents.
“We’re making changes to be more effective around here,” he said. “That’s our goal. The customer service business, that’s what we’re in.”
Annual reports on the number of crimes committed in Secaucus are available on the State of New Jersey Department of Law and Public Safety site (http://www.state.nj.us/njsp/info/pdf/ucr/current/012414_crimetrend.pdf).
Art Schwartz may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.