Progress in reducing crime in Jersey City has been steady over the last three years, said Mayor Steven Fulop last week, although there are still problem areas to be addressed. Jersey City has seen a spike in some categories such as violent crime, and this year saw an increase in domestic violence incidents. Other categories have remained flat over the past year.
Police records show that there were 1,073 incidents of assault in 2016, close to the previous year’s 1,071 incidents.
Aggravated assaults dropped from 435 in 2015 to 430 in 2016, with robberies showing a similar decrease from 445 to 440. Robberies involving weapons fell about 5 percent during that same period, from 191 to 181.
Public safety overall has made progress since 2013, Fulop said, though he added he is not playing down negative issues like the gun violence that has plagued portions of the city, or the reduced but still significant number of murders.
There were 24 homicides in Jersey City in 2016. Of these, Fulop said, six were domestic violence incidents. While two of these cases had a prior domestic violence history, four of the perpetrators had no involvement with the police so there was no way to anticipate them.
Even then, Fulop said the city is working with the county prosecutor’s office to develop an outreach program that will help reduce or intervene earlier in such situations to keep them from becoming lethal.
Big drops since 2013
Fulop said the city has implemented a number of strategies to not only deal with crime, but to create a more positive landscape for police presence. Other public safety improvements include increased recreation programs and redevelopment that will help reduce crime in typical high crime areas – especially in areas where violent crime has been a scourge.
Burglaries, Fulop admitted, rose by 13 percent from 899 in 2015 to 1,014 in 2016. But he also noted that the increase occurred in the first quarter of 2016. Police burglary details deployed in each district resulted in arrests and a decline.
Fulop, who was elected in 2013 and is running for reelection in November, said that there has been a much more dramatic drop in crime since 2013 – with the exception of homicides which have remained in the mid-20s. The other troubling area has been commercial burglaries.
Since 2013, assaults have declined by 21 percent, aggravated assaults by 20 percent, auto thefts by 30 percent, burglaries in general by 10 percent, and home burglaries down by 20 percent. There has been a 16 percent drop in vandalism and criminal mischief since 2013, a 15 percent drop in larceny, 28 percent drop in robberies and a 29 percent drop in armed robberies.
“We’ve seen a lot of gains over the last three years in nearly all areas,” he said. “But we’re now looking at some of the most stubborn and hardest to crack cases. We need to put more focus on dealing with violence.”
Violent crime is an issue
One tell-tale indicator of a problem with violent crime, he noted, was the increase in guns recovered, up from 236 in 2015 to 251 in 2016. But this is down from 2013 and 2014, in which 282 and 265 guns were recovered.
The Police Department stats show that in 2016 the department investigated 80 non–fatal shootings, up from 69 in 2015 and 59 in 2014. Of the 80 cases investigated last year, 38 resulted in arrests, up from 23 in 2015 and 18 in 2014. Nearly half of the non-fatal cases in 2016 were resolved by year’s end.
As for the city’s murder rate, it tells a story of repeat offenders.
Of the non-domestic violence homicides, 13 of the cases involved people with prior weapons arrests. Twelve people had prior felony convictions, and ten of the participants had at least ten prior arrests each, Fulop said
“It is clear that there is a failure in the criminal justice system,” he said. “There has been no improvement.”
He said this clearly an area that needs to be addressed.
Dealing with crime in other ways
Strategies for dealing with, reducing, or avoiding crime are varied.
The city is moving ahead with a new public safety camera program, more advanced technology than the existing system, and better placed in areas with a history of crime.
Public Safety is also implementing a new dispatch information system. The Mark 44 system which is already in Washington D.C. and Camden, would provide new technology with software and data analytics that could allow police to enter arrest and incident reporter faster and would provide critical information about whether a suspect is likely to be armed and dangerous or not.
This could help Jersey City avoid some of the issues other cities face in life and death situation.
“We would be the third city in the United States to implement the program,” Fulop said.
Increasing the number of police on the street is also critical, Fulop said, noting that the most recent hiring has brought the number of cops on the force to over 900 for the first time in decades.
“We want to make sure the police interact with the public in a positive way.” – Steven Fulop
“We want high visibility and for the officers to get to known the neighbors and interact,” he said. “We want to make sure the police interact with the public in a positive way.”
In 2016, the department officially opened its new West District police station in an area of the city where police are close to many of the critical crime points.
Bids have just come back for construction in a new police facility to be located in the Marion Gardens housing complex also on the west side of the city.
The new City Hall Annex currently under construction on Martin Luther King Drive provides a positive impact for the area, putting more than 200 city employees into a critical shopping hub and increase police presence in that area as well.
The newly opened Berry Lane Park on Garfield Avenue provides another positive venue for dealing with crime allowing kids to become involved in any number of recreation programs as well as other after school programs.
“These are investments in the community,” Fulop said
Al Sullivan may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.