The number of murders in New Jersey fell to 381 last year, the lowest statewide total in five years, even as slayings continued to mount in the state’s cities, reports the Newark Star-Ledger. The “Urban Fifteen” cities catalogued 264 murders — up from 255 the previous year — even though they have less than a quarter of the state’s population. The decrease in the statewide murder total from 427 to 381 came as New Jersey’s overall crime rate continued to fall to historically low levels. There was also a 7 percent drop in the total number of violent crimes, including decreases in reported rapes, robberies, and aggravated assaults with a firearm.
“It seems to be that virtually all categories of reported crime have experienced a decrease and that has to be taken as an encouraging sign,” said Wayne Fisher, director of the Police Institute at Rutgers-Newark. “It’s very difficult to point to one thing, if not impossible, and say this is what did it. But we may be seeing the beginning of a return on the measures police departments are taking around the state.” Fisher cited the increased use of visible police patrols in high-crime areas, the greater responsibility given to officers on the streets, and the push to arrest fugitives as the most likely strategies that have had the largest effect. Those strategies may be on the chopping block in many departments, after Congress’ decision last year to reduce funding for certain federal anti-crime grants.