The 2014 crime statistics have been released by the Kearny Police Department, and the good news is that crime in the township remained virtually static, with a total of 1,289 recorded major offenses last year, compared with 1,286 in 2013. The better news is, that aside from that plus-three difference with 2013, the 2014 tally was the lowest of the 14 years covered in the report. Back in 2001, the Kearny major-crime total was 1,717. And all that with diminishing staffing.
Officially known as the Uniform Crime Report Index, the data cover nine categories. The highest tally, and one of the few showing an increase, was larceny: 694 incidents, compared with 642 in ‘13.
Police Chief John Dowie explained that this category “covers almost every type of theft there is, including thefts from motor vehicles, packages taken from porches, thefts of cell phones, etc.”
Thefts of motor vehicles are in a separate category. There were 122 last year, down from 136 in ‘13.
Robberies are also separate: There were 36 in ‘14; 41 in ‘13.
Simple assaults were down, from 319 in ‘13 to 300 last year; aggravated assaults were up, from 33 to 46. (The difference between the offenses has to do with the extent of the injuries and/ or whether a “weapon” was involved. The weapon, lest you are worried about guns, could be just about anything, such as a beer bottle.)
Burglaries showed a sharp decrease: 82 in ‘14, compared with 110 in ‘13.
The highest number on the chart for that crime was 232, back in 2003. “I pride myself on the reduction year after year in this category,” Dowie said, citing these stats: 183 burglaries in 2011; 123 in ‘12; 110 in ‘13, and the two-digit tally last year.
“There has been a significant drop,” Dowie said. “Why? Burglary is generally a drug-driven offense. If we continue to go after drug offenders, it has the effect of reducing burglaries. If they’re incarcerated, burglaries are down.”
The chief commended “the narcotics unit and some very aggressive and street-savvy uniformed patrol officers, who make it their business to know who our criminal element is, especially drug offenders and burglars, and keep tabs on their parole status, their warrant status, and the places they frequent.”
“This [the consistent reduction in burglaries] is the end result,” he said. “It has obviously paid dividends to the residents of Kearny.”
The other major-crime categories were homicide (zero), arson (four cases), and rape (five). Of the last, Dowie said he wanted to let people know that the rapes were not committed by someone “lurking in the bushes or alleys.”
“I don’t think we had any of those,” he said, explaining that the local crimes typically involve incest or date rape or “stem from domestic violence.” Likewise, instances of aggravated assault are often related to domestic violence.
Along with the major crimes, miscellaneous offenses and incidents kept the KPD more than busy. In 2014, the department logged 26,458 reports and made 1,060 arrests. These included 241 shoplifters.
Shoplifting, Dowie explained, is one of the more time-consuming crimes, since “every incident, from a candy bar to a TV, involves an arrest.” And arrests mean taking officers off the street until the paperwork is completed.
Additionally, a lot of the shoplifters are multiple offenders, have outstanding warrants, are in possession of drugs, etc., which means even more paperwork time.
In 2014, the KPD also dealt with: 149 outstanding-warrant arrests; 158 drug arrests (possession and/or distribution); 1,171 false burglar alarms; 273 calls to assist the Fire Department; 2,270 medical calls; 303 lock-out assists; 257 domestic violence calls; 1,100 vehicles towed; 1,295 town ordinance violations and 710 noise complaints.
Citing the essentially flat rate in major crimes between 2013 and ‘14, and the 26,458 responses by the officers, Mayor Alberto Santos posted the following on the town’s website: “These numbers show that the Kearny Police Department continues to be highly effective in responding to calls quickly, which is necessary to deter criminals and maintain public safety.”
The posting also noted that “six new officers will join the ranks later this year after they graduate from the police academy and . . . the Town will continue to invest in technology such as surveillance cameras and license plate recognition cameras.”
Those six new officers will be more than welcome, considering continuing losses in the ranks, due primarily to retirements.
At the end of 2014, the KPD numbered 96 officers. Now, the first week in March, it’s already down to 94, “with two more scheduled to go shortly,” Dowie said. Compare 92 to the complement of 122 on the force in 2001, the first year covered in the 2014 report.
“The current contract will expire at the end of this year, and I expect to lose more,” the chief said.
In a single year, 2012, 15 officers left the department, Dowie said.
And the reason for the continuing loss of personnel? “Two big words: Governor Christie.”
“It’s not the mayor or the Town Council’s fault,” the chief emphasized.
“Towns are pretty much hamstrung by the 2% budget cap mandated by the state.”
And as their pension contributions increased, and their contributions to their health care benefits increased and the end of a contract approaches, retirement appears the safest option. “It’s a matter of not wanting to go into the unknown,” Dowie said.
A reduced force could have other consequences. “My fear,” the chief warned, “is that the good people I have left are going to burn out. Less people means more work. And there will be no time for a lot of proactive policing.”