The Star-Ledger reported this week that the last three shooting deaths in Newark pushed the homicide total for 2011 to 29 so far, a leap of 71% from last year at this time, something they are connecting to police layoffs. They also point to rising shootings and thefts, attributing all of these to a shortage of police officers.
The city of Newark laid off 167 police officers in November and has seen an overall 21% rise in crime since when compared with these same months in 2010. An 11% increase in robberies, 11% increase in burglaries, 25% increase in thefts, 39% jump in auto thefts, and a 29% increase in shootings have all occurred in the first quarter of 2011, compared with the first quarter of 2010. The only decreases were seen in rapes (a 50% decrease) and aggravated assault (a 3% decrease).
While the police union and others are quick to point to the layoffs as the cause for this dramatic increase in crime and homicides in particular, it’s difficult to say for certain what all of the contributing factors are.
Though they are quick to state criminals are “more brazen” knowing there aren’t as many officers on the street, it seems police productivity has taken a hit as well. In the same months that crime has climbed, arrests have dropped 22%. Parking tickets have also dropped.
This drop in police productivity is alarming and interestingly, something the union also blames on the layoffs. They state officers are “on the defensive” only able to respond to calls and not actively pursue their own investigations and self-started cases. But this drop in arrests began before the layoffs so it’s not clear how legitimate this argument is.
In 2010, the city of Newark experienced a significant decline in crime, “one of its most successful stretches in recent memory.” During the first three months of 2010, crime dropped 13%. While this was certainly something to be celebrated, it paints the new increases in a new light. Perhaps the climbing numbers aren’t due to more brazen criminals and simply a return to the Newark of years past. Maybe the drop in 2010 was the anomaly, not this rise in early 2011.
Regardless, fewer cops doesn’t mean it’s a free for all. Police officers are still responding to complaints and prosecutors are still taking suspected criminals to court. If you are facing criminal charges you don’t need to be told this, you already know. And when you are up against jail time and a conviction, you need an aggressive criminal defense attorney on your side, looking out for your best interests.
If you are charged with a crime and need an advocate in your corner, contact my offices today.