Violent Crime Rises In Union County Even As State Rate Drops

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TRENTON – While incidents of violent crime dropped one percent from 2007 to 2008 throughout New Jersey, Union County experienced a 7.5 percent increase, according to the 2008 Uniform Crime Report released Tuesday by Attorney General Anne Milgram.

Non-violent crimes increased 3 percent last year, compared to 2007, but despite the increase, the total incidents of crime recorded in 2008 was the second lowest total of reported index crimes in the last 15 years.

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There were 2,290 violent crimes reported in Union County last year, up from 2,129 in 2007. They include 22 murders, 73 rapes, 1,363 robberies and 832 aggravated assaults. There were 16,800 offenses in 2008 in the categories tracked by the report, an eight percent increase from 2007. There were 2,672 robberies, 9,700 thefts and 2,138 motor vehicle thefts.

Except for murders and vehicle thefts, Union County experienced an increase in every category from 2007 to 2008.

This is the seventh consecutive year of a statewide drop in the violent crime index, according to officials.  There was also another 1 percent drop in the number of murders in 2008, compared to 2007, the second consecutive year the number of murders had dropped and the lowest number of recorded murders since 2002.

The drop in the number of murders continued through the first half of this year, according to statistics compiled by the state’s 21 county prosecutors. There were 158 reported homicides in the state in the first six months of 2009, compared to 209 during the same period of 2008, which represented a 24 percent drop.

“I believe the continued drop in violent crime and the reduction in the number of murders in our state demonstrate that our aggressive anti-crime campaign against street gangs, violent criminals and gun and drug trafficking is making a difference,” Attorney General Milgram said. “But our work is not done. Our goal is to continue the decline in the incidents of violent crime and reduce the number of murders for a third consecutive year.”

The incidents of violent crime dropped in 11 of the state’s 21 counties: Atlantic, Bergen, Cape May, Cumberland, Hudson, Hunterdon, Mercer, Morris, Passaic, Salem, and Warren.

The overall crime rate was down in six counties (Atlantic, Cape May, Cumberland, Essex, Morris and Somerset), unchanged in two counties (Mercer and Salem), and increased in 13.

The total crime rate for the state was 26.2 victims for every 1,000 residents, compared to 25.3 in 2007. The crime rate was 26.4 victims per 1,000 residents in 2006 and 26.9 victims for every 1,000 residents in 2005. The violent crime rate was 3.3 victims per 1,000 residents in 2008, the same as 2007, which, in turn, was a drop from 3.5 victims per 1,000 residents in 2006.

Total violent crime decreased from 28,526 reported incidents to 28,281. While murders decreased to 376, reported rapes increased 6 percent from 1,029 to 1,090. Robberies increased 1 percent from 12,562 to 12,694, and aggravated assault decreased 3 percent from 14,554 reported incidents to 14,121. The number of aggravated assaults was responsible for half of all reported violent crimes.

Firearms were used in 63 percent of the reported murders. In 43 percent of the murders, the offender and victim knew each other: 32 percent were friends or acquaintances and 11 percent were family members. Twenty-one percent of all murder victims were between the ages of 25 and 29, while 17 percent were between the ages of 20 and 24, and 14 percent were between the ages of 15 and 19.  Sixty-three percent of murder victims were African-American, while 34 percent were white.

There were 70,613 domestic violence offenses reported by the police in 2008, a 2 percent decrease compared to the number reported in 2007. The number of murders attributed to domestic violence circumstances was 57 in 2008, compared to 38 the previous year.

Bias-related crimes reported to police increased 8 percent in 2008, compared to 2007. There were 876 bias incident offenses reported, compared to 809. There had been 825 reported bias incidents in 2006 and 792 reported bias incidents in 2005. Criminal mischief and property damage accounted for 42 percent of the bias incidents reported in 2008, while harassment accounted for 39 percent. Racial bias accounted for 47 percent of all bias incident crimes in 2008, the same percentage as the year earlier.

Auto thefts dropped 8 percent in 2008 after dropping 11 percent in 2007, compared to 2006. Auto thefts decreased to 21,944 offenses; 67 percent of vehicles were recovered. Auto thefts have dropped each year since 2001, when it reached a peak of 34,009 stolen vehicles.

But burglary in 2008 increased 8 percent, with residential burglaries accounting for 72 percent of the total. Similarly, larceny and theft increased 4 percent after dropping the previous year.

The number of reported assaults against police officers decreased 14 percent, from 3,006 to 2,572.

The annual Uniform Crime Report is prepared by the State Police Uniform Crime Reporting Unit based on information provided by municipal, county and state law enforcement agencies. The latest report records offenses from January 1, 2008 through December 31, 2008.

A copy of the annual report is available on line at http://www.njsp.org/info/ucr2008/index.html


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