Newark’s steep drop in murders and shootings continued through the third quarter of 2008, but overall crime remains slightly higher than it was last year at this time, says the Newark Star-Ledger. The number of so-called index offenses — murders, rapes, robberies, assaults, burglaries, thefts, and auto thefts — has inched up by 3 percent this year. That increase has largely been fueled by a 35 percent jump in burglaries.
All year, Newark has been battling an increase in property crimes, which police attribute in part to the popularity of Global Positioning System receivers and a surge in scrap metal prices. Police also cite an overhaul in the way they count crimes. After a 2007 audit found discrepancies in the way officers categorized crime reports, Police Director Garry McCarthy implemented a series of reforms to make the statistics better reflect reality. As a result, he said, many crimes that weren’t labeled as index offenses in the past are now being placed in those categories. He estimated that 20-30 crimes per week were mislabeled. He called the jump in burglaries a “false positive” that will disappear in 2009, when the department has a full year of corrected numbers to use as a baseline. He said he’s less concerned about making year-to-year comparisons than knowing the actual volume of crime and applying resources to deal with it.