The number of murders in New Jersey hit 427 last year, the most since 1990, reports the Newark Star-Ledger. The number of shootings was the highest recorded in the past decade as criminals turned increasingly to firearms to settle disputes. In what could indicate a shift by gangs into other markets, the increases in killings and shootings occurred in suburban and rural towns, not in cities, said the state police’s annual Uniform Crime Report. Urban areas still accounted for 361 of the murders. That figure was down slightly compared with the previous year, while the number of murders in suburban and rural areas went up by a dozen, to 66.
“It could mean the proliferation and trafficking of firearms has moved beyond the urban areas, or it could mean there is more of an inclination of people in the rural areas to resort to guns,” said Wayne Fisher of the Police Institute at Rutgers-Newark. “The bottom line: Gun crime is no longer a problem confined to the urban areas of our state.” Attorney General Anne Milgram said the “disturbing trends” of rising murders rates and shootings underscore the need for Gov. Jon Corzine’s new $48 million anti-crime strategy that intends to reinvent how state, county, and local agencies address the gang violence. “We must be aggressive in adopting intelligence-led policing to reduce the number of gun crimes and murders,” Milgram said. “We also need stiffer penalties for illegal gun possession.”