Crime was down again in New Jersey last year, according to data in a recently released annual FBI report, and early figures for this year suggest the trend may continue amid the disruptions caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

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Violent crimes dropped slightly in 2019, to 206.9 per 100,000 residents from 208.6 in 2018. It has dropped significantly over the last decade, from 311.4 per 100,000 residents in 2009, and is notably lower than the national rate of 379.4 per 100,000 residents.

Murders were down. Rapes were up. Robberies are down by more than half since 2013. Assaults were up a bit but have fluctuated in the same range for five years.

Property crimes have fallen to 1,336 per 100,000 people and now have declined in seven of the last eight years. The rate is lower than the national rate of 2,110 per 100,000 people. Compared with a year earlier, arson was level in New Jersey while burglary, theft and motor vehicle theft were down.

Joel Caplan, a professor at Rutgers-Newark and director of the Rutgers Center on Public Security, said there’s a been a downward trend for many years but that it’s difficult to say what’s the cause.

“There’s a wide variation across the state, and one thing that probably shouldn’t be done which is easy to do with FBI crime data is to look at the state as a whole when in reality it’s actually quite variable across the state,” Caplan said. “And there could be a lot of reasons for why some places are high crime and some places are low, and they could be very micro-level – countywide, citywide. Even local places within the cities could have a lot of variation.”

Combined violent and nonviolent crime rates varied from 3,122 per 100,000 in Cumberland County to 428 in Hunterdon County.

“There’s likely policies and practices that are influencing these crime trends, but it’s usually not statewide policies and practices that influence these trends,” Caplan said. “Because there’s a lot of variation, there’s probably a lot of explanations at the local levels.”

There were 18,375 violent crimes in 2019 in New Jersey:

  • 262 murders
  • 1,531 rapes
  • 5,730 robberies
  • 10,852 aggravated assaults

There were 118,637 property crimes in 2019:

  • 16,399 burglaries
  • ·91,901 larceny-thefts
  • 10,336 motor vehicle thefts

Data through July made public by the New Jersey State Police seems to mirror a separate, interim report from the FBI that finds crime is down in the first half of 2020, with the exception of murder and assault.

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The state data goes through July, or 58% of the way through the year. The number of murders, 151, was 58% of the 2019 total. The number of assaults was 59% of last year’s total. But the overall crime total for the state was 50% of the previous year’s total, with car thefts the only other category over 50%.

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