The murder rate in New Jersey increased last year, but not as much as the national murder rate, according to a newly released Federal Bureau of Investigation report on crime.
“We have not been immune to the increase in homicides,” New Jersey State Police Superintendent Col. Patrick Callahan said at Gov. Phil Murphy’s Sept. 27 press briefing, the same day the FBI released its annual report.
New Jersey’s murder rate rose from 3 per 100,000 residents in 2019 to 3.7 per 100,000 in 2020—a 19% hike. New Jersey’s murder rate rose to the highest it has been since 2016, according to FBI data in the report.
The national murder rate rose quicker, moving from 5.1 to 6.5 per 100,000 between 2019 and 2020, jumping to a level last seen in 1997.
Pandemic Seen as Factor
Callahan pointed to “stressors” caused by the COVID-19 pandemic as a potential factor in New Jersey’s rise in murders.
Additionally, the police superintendent said: “I think at the heart of it lies illegal crime, guns in the hands of violent recidivist offenders. And that weapon used in Newark, we’ve seen it used in Trenton, we’ve then seen it used in Atlantic City.”
Callahan said New Jersey law enforcement is focusing not solely on violent offenders, “but also in getting those crime guns off the streets is where we’re working with all of our federal, state, county and local partners.”
Murphy said that New Jersey has “in the top couple of strongest gun safety laws in America… but of those crime guns, tell me at least 80% of them are coming in from outside of New Jersey. That’s the issue here, which is maddening.”
In 2021 so far, New Jersey’s shooting murder victims rate is up 15% since 2020, Callahan said. “…It’s still half the national average. But it’s a concern, part of our mission every day on the public safety front.”
“We’d like that to be going down 15% a year,” Murphy added.
Overall Violent Crime Up Nationally, Down in Jersey
FBI data in the report showed an increase in violent crimes nationally for the first time in four years in 2020, while the violent crime rate fell in New Jersey. Violent crime in New Jersey was 195.4 per 100,000 residents in 2020—down by more than half since 1999. At that time, the rate was 411.9 per 100,000.
The one-year drop in violent crime in New Jersey from 2019 to 2020 was roughly 5.5 percent.
Robbery rates dropped by 23% from 2019 to 2020. The rate of rapes decreased by almost 17% from 2019 to 2020.
Property Crimes Down in New Jersey
Property crimes saw a big drop-off in New Jersey in 2020, falling by 13% from 2019. The FBI said the rate had been cut by more than half since 2005. Additionally, burglaries were down by more than 20%. Theft rates were down 13%. Car theft rates were down slightly, by less than 1 %.
Burglary rates were down more than 20% from 2019 to 2020. Theft rates were down 13% from 2019 to 2020. Car theft rates were down but only slightly, less than 1%.
On the negative end, aggravated assault rates were up 5% in New Jersey from 2019 to 2020, the FBI said.