Elizabeth Leads County Crime Increase

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UNION COUNTY—Crime increased in 2008 over the prior year, according to figures released by the State Police.

A ten-percent spike in violent crime led an overall crime rate increase of 7½ percent in the county, which had one less murder but a 22 percent increase in the number of reported rapes compared with the year before.

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Robbery and aggravated assault rose to 1363 and 832, respectively, over 2007 records of 1,247 and 799.

Elizabeth, with just over 20 percent of the county’s population, accounted for 42 percent of all reported crimes.

The city had a six percent hike in domestic violence, an 11 percent rise in larceny and a 22 percent jump in the number of burglaries.

Despite a drop from 16 murders in 2007 to 13 homicides in 2008, Elizabeth experienced a 20 percent increase in violent crimes due to significant leaps in the numbers of rapes, robberies and aggravated assaults reported in the city.

In May, Union County Prosecutor Theodore Romankow attributed a sharp rise in violent crime in Elizabeth to the mayor’s policy of ignoring gang activity.

Mayor J. Christian Bollwage insists on dismissing the gang epidemic, suggesting that drug dealing and violence is unrelated to organized crime despite vast evidence to the contrary.

Street gangs have emerged nationally, replacing older forms of organized crime with one of a ruthlessly violent nature. These gangs sometimes engage in brutal competition for control over drug dealing territory.

The annual State Police report does not include crimes of corruption, such as the bid-rigging and kickback scandal in which Bollwage’s close associate, Ray Vella, was convicted in federal court for bribing a housing official in exchange for more than $650,000 in contracts.

Police also do not track the number of shootings that occur in the city, although there has been dramatic increase in gun violence. Most of the reported murders in Elizabeth resulted from gunshots and a number of firearm injuries are included in the report under the ‘aggravated assault’ category, but there is no account for bullets that do not hit a person.

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