During a press conference to announce a new emergency services communications center on Monday (see story on pg. 9), the city announced that most violent and non-violent crime statistics in Jersey City were down during the first nine months of this year, compared with the same period last year.
From January through September 2006, there were 20 homicides, compared to 26 in 2005. That represents a 23 percent decrease.
Assaults were down from 3,257 last year to 3,058 this year, and robberies are down from 1,147 to 1,211. Both of those categories represent a 5 percent decrease.
However, rape is up from 34 last year to 51 this year. In the non-violent crime category, burglary went down 23 percent, auto theft 20 percent and larceny theft down 4 percent.
Police Chief Thomas Comey hailed the decreases as the result of active patrolling by the police.
“We are getting more police on the streets in the police cars and on bikes,” said Comey. “And we are hitting hot spots hard and will continue to do so as long as we have Compstat.” Compstat is a police management system that has been in operation in the Jersey City Police Department since March, with the commanders of the city’s four districts continually meeting with top brass.
Comey went to say that he was “not completely satisfied and wanted crime numbers go down further” and that the police will be seeing 45 new officers in December.
When asked why rape had increased, Comey said he would talk to the Sex Crimes unit for more details, but could not be reached for a followup by press time.
The announcement came on the heels of the city’s most recent homicide on the afternoon of Oct. 29 in Jersey City Heights, when shopkeeper Fidelina Claros was killed during a botched robbery of her deli.Reactions
Not everyone was immediately excited by the statistics last week.
City Councilman Viola Richardson, a former Jersey City police officer, was skeptical.
“I need to study these numbers further, but I find hard it to believe that crime has gone down, said Richardson, as she cited a triple shooting that occurred at the intersection of Union Street and Martin Luther King Drive three days before the groundbreaking.
And what do the residents of Jersey City think about crime in their town?
Pam is a Downtown Jersey City resident and is a member of Downtown Jersey City Watch, a grassroots organization made up of downtown residents who have all been victims of crime. They patrol various Downtown streets with the help of the Guardian Angels.
Pam said she was only made aware of the decreases in crime announced by the police after speaking to the Jersey City Reporter. But she said she hoped those numbers would be broken down further to show the numbers in each of the city’s six wards.
Pam bases her belief on what her fellow Downtown Jersey City Watch members have been seeking as they have been given stats verbally by the police at their monthly meetings but “not in writing.”
“If there true decrease in crime, we would like to see exactly where the decreases such as in various areas of Downtown and a breakdown of how many robberies occurred in Harsimus Cove in January as opposed to August,” said Pam.
She also said she knew of some members “who will say there is an increase in crime, and some who will say there is a decrease.”
But Pam did acknowledge she has seen an increased police presence in her neighborhood when going out on patrols with fellow members.
Fellow Downtown resident Dale Hardman also echoed Pam’s sentiments in asking for exact numbers.
Hardman said in an e-mail, “I hope that the release of crime stats for January-September 2006 will be made available to the DJCW in detailed form showing stats for the East District by each of the [district’s] Zones 1 through 6, and that comparable stats for Jan-September 2005 will be released for all incidents reported as well.”
Hardman said that both himself and City Councilman Steven Fulop have asked for the same breakdown of crime numbers.
Lavern Webb Washington, a lifelong city resident, was dismissive. Washington is a constant presence at City Council meetings where echoes the same refrain: “We need jobs and recreation!”
She said there has been a significant uptick in crime especially amongst young people because there are few jobs and other opportunities to get them off the streets. She also heads the Randolph Avenue and Harmon Street Block Association.
“There’s still killings, there’s still kids hanging out on street corners,” said Washington. “There are 10, 15 people calling me everyday saying ‘Can you find me any jobs?’ ” Politicians want more than just numbers
Both Fulop and City Council President Mariano Vega agreed that there was progress in terms of the police fighting crime, but said they wanted more.
Fulop said he was impressed with Comey being more proactive than his predecessor, but that “crime numbers are still too high.”
“I can say there is definitely a police presence and it is welcome by the community, but there’s still a lot of work that has to be done on stopping robberies,” said Fulop. “I wouldn’t say it is a success but there is movement in the right direction. The numbers are still too high.”
Vega’s wife Sonia was the victim of a mugging earlier this year. But he was heartened by the results.
“I have no reason to doubt the numbers,” he said. “Our police force is professional law enforcement, and I don’t think it would be in their best interest to give false numbers, and I hope the numbers continue to go down,” said Vega. Ricardo Kaulessar can be reached at email@example.com Sidebar The hard numbers
The crime stats released by the Jersey City Police Department was culled from incidents reported during the period of January-September 2006 and then submitted to the State Police for verification. They are compared to the numbers from January-September 2005.
Homicides: 26 – 2005; 20 – 2006
Robbery: 1211 – 2005; 1147 – 2006
Assault: 3257 – 2005; 3058 – 2006
Rape: 34 – 2005: 51 – 2006
Burglary: 1687 – 2005: 1304 – 2006
Larceny: 3497 – 2005; 3359 – 2006
Auto Theft: 1475 – 2005; 1183 – 2006