Jersey City officials tout big drops in murders, shootings; 6 lesser crimes see increases


Jersey City officials touted big drops in murders and shootings at a press conference this morning where they also said six lesser crimes saw increases, with one other seeing a slight decrease.

By John Heinis/Hudson County View

“The first slide that you’re looking at today … is dealing with homicides and shootings. The important thing here is trend, not the actual data,” Mayor Steven Fulop said at the podium inside council chambers.

“We still have a week left in the year of course, but we’re on target for the lowest number of homicides since records have been kept in Jersey City – that’s quite a significant accomplishment.”

The data released by the city today shows crime stats dating back to the first full year of Fulop’s administration, 2014. That year saw 24 homicides and 77 shootings.

In 2019, those numbers dipped to 13 and 48, respectively, similar to where they stand to date: 12 and 54. During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 and 2021, those figures first reached 17 and 82 and then 23 and 71.

Reiterating Fulop’s point, Public Safety Director James Shea said that trends are more important than comparing data over a one-year period.

“We’re very happy that we’ve taken the [homicide] average from around the mid-20s to now the mid-teens. If we have a bad year, like last year, our bad year is 23, not in the 30s, and eventually we hope we’ll have a good year and it’ll be in the single digits, we want to keep improving on it.”

Shea also credited the police officers and detectives tasked with solving these crimes, as well as the Hudson County Prosecutor’s Office – who have closed the cases on 10 of the 12 murders from this year.

Seven other crime categories were discussed in detail: robbery, robbery with a weapon, aggravated assault, criminal mischief, burglary, larceny-theft, and motor vehicle theft.

With 300 robberies reported in 2022, that shows a slight decrease from 2021 when there were 309, compared to 340 in 2020 and 372 in 2019.

138 incidents of robbery with a weapon have been recorded for this year, an increase of 17 from last year, though also in the same range that has been consistent for the prior three years.

Additionally, 21 more aggravated assault were recorded in 2022 compared to last year, 783 vs. 762, with this type of crime on the upward swing: 413 were on the books in 2019 and then followed by 680 the next year.

Shea also noted that starting in 2019, domestic violence incidents began being grouped together with the other aggravated assault statistics.

“We’ve got a lot of work to do on aggravated assaults. We’re working on domestic violence with the prosecutor to try to intervene faster before something becomes an assault. We do continue to encourage people to report any violence against you – domestic or otherwise – we want the reports, we want to try to be able to help everybody.”

Criminal mischief incidents have see-sawed since 2019, when 1,014 were recorded, down to 690 and 761 in 2020 and 2021, respectively, before buoying back up to 1,031 so far in 2022.

Finally, burglary, larceny-theft, and motor vehicle thefts are all up significantly from the past two years, with car thefts hitting the highest total in the past eight years – 782.

Fulop and Shea both attributed these trends to bail reform, since it often allows repeat offenders to get back out on the streets quickly.

“The effects of bail reform, which I’m agnostic on – I’m not saying it’s necessarily a bad thing – but it has resulted in the few people who commit these crimes to being able to commit a lot more because they’re not spending any time in jail,” stated Shea.

Department of Infrastructure Director Barkha Patel noted that after being the first in the city in the state to adopt Vision Zero in 2019, which aims to eliminate all traffic deaths by 2026, 2022 is the first year since then that no traffic related deaths have been recorded.

Additional data released today showed that the fire department has 682 firefighters, compared to 550 in 2013, while the police department has 924 – which was at 779 the year Fulop took office.

Furthermore, 996 CCTV cameras were installed this year, the third year in a row over 900 were put online in Jersey City.

During the question and answer session with the press, Fulop said “the current version of bail reform doesn’t work here in Jersey City,” declining to comment on any pending legislation, while Shea fielded an inquiry about why the data wasn’t broken down by ward.

“Not surprisingly, we’re getting the most success in our South and West Districts, but that’s because where we started with the most number of violent crimes happening. So if they’re happening there, that’s where we can address them, that’s where we can affect them, that’s where we can bring them down.”

Conversely, he said the East and North Districts are seeing an uptick in the lower level crimes, while seeing very limited violent crimes.

When asked if he would commit to providing CompStat data on a weekly basis, Fulop said he would not “because we look at larger trends over a larger period of time.”

When HCV asked about the expense to the taxpayer for public safety hires and promotions, Shea acknowledging that nothing is for free, but said that a cost-benefit analysis is performed prior to making those decisions.

“If we promote a cop to sergeant, we pay him more, or her more, if we promote a firefighter to captain … we’re very careful to do it when it’s necessary. By necessary I mean it increases the safety of the citizens of Jersey City, our workers, our police officers and firefighters that are out there to do the jobs that are gonna keep them safe.”

Shea noted that years ago, sometimes officers we be assigned to two precincts in one night, or sergeants would be interviewing their superiors, two examples that show more police, and specifically more supervisors, were needed.

Responding to a follow-up about the police budget going over by several million dollars over the past few years, Fulop said the city was committed to reforming this in time for the next municipal spending plan.

“We’ve worked with the unions to create a clear table of organization: when people retire, the next rank gets promoted and it takes a lot of the politics out of that and a lot of the arbitrary decisions. So we have structured that in another way that wasn’t the case before,” the mayor replied.

“With regards to overtime, it is a real conversation on the administration side and the city council. We’ve looked at what we’ve paid for some of the nonprofit and public events over the last year. It’s a real conversation that we’re gonna have early next year on who should be bearing the cost of those sort of off-duty and additional overtime police officers that are part of those events – it ends up being millions of dollars additional in the budget.”

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