With a few clicks on a dashboard-mounted laptop computer, a detective in East Orange, N.J., can access live images of the streets ahead from video surveillance cameras, says the New York Times. A few more clicks, and he an view up-to-the-second police reports in the city of 70,000, which in the past half decade posted crime rates as high as twice the national average and where an average of five cars were reported stolen every day. Electronic listening devices mounted around the city send an electronic signal to alert officers within seconds of a shooting.
Those technological crime-fighting tools is one major reason why the crime rate here has declined by more than 50 percent in the past three years, officials say. Significant pockets of the city remain perilous. Still, from 2003 to 2006, murders declined by nearly two-thirds, rapes by nearly a third and robberies by half. Property crimes have declined, with burglaries down by more than half and car theft falling by two-thirds. The city has added more than a million dollars in electronics and surveillance equipment, most of it paid for with money seized from criminals; and a fine-tuning of the Compstat data collection program for crime statistics pioneered by the New York Police Department. The director of the East Orange police, Jose Cordero, is a Bronx-born former New York City police inspector. He made a crackdown on so-called quality-of-life crimes a priority in the hope that attention to minor issues like loitering and curfew violations by youngsters will deter such infractions from evolving into more serious crimes.