Crime rate holds steady

Reported crime in Rahway dipped about 1.5 percent last year, as nonviolent crime inched up while violent crime dropped by a third. Countywide, reported crime rose about 2 percent, according to figures for 2016.

The overall number of incidents of crime reported in Rahway dropped by 1.2 percent, from 504 to 498 incidents, according to the 2016 state Uniform Crime Report (UCR). Nonviolent crime inched up 3.3 percent and violent crime dropped 31.5 percent (54 incidents to 37).

The clearance rate by Rahway Police Department last year was 26 percent, with the best rates coming among the 113 simple assaults (73 percent) and the lowest among 253 larceny incidents (8 percent). The clearance rate for nonviolent crime was 54 percent compared with 8 percent for violent crime.

crime scene tape.jpgRahway was among 10 towns in Union County that reported fewer incidents of crime, with 9 reporting increases; interestingly, 2 were virtually unchanged (Summit and Plainfield, technically down by one incident). Most of the biggest swings for towns seemed to be within the category of larceny. Police Chief John Rodger did not respond to an email seeking comment last week.

Rahway accounts for 3 percent of the countywide crime total. Overall reported crime incidents in Rahway (498) compared most closely to Roselle (495) and neighboring Carteret (449). Within Union County, the largest city, Elizabeth, still accounts for the most reported crime — 43 percent of the 15,375 incidents reported last year.

Among the 21 towns in the county, there’s a big drop after the top four towns (Elizabeth, Plainfield, Linden, Union), going from 1,146 in Union to 604 in Hillside. The median figure within Union County was found in Clark, which reported 213 incidents. Clark was up 18 percent last year, following a 20-percent spike in 2015.

Here’s a look at how Rahway’s 1.2-percent dip compares with some of its neighbors:

  • Carteret, -17 percent;
  • Clark, +20 percent;
  • Edison, -9 percent;
  • Linden, +9 percent;
  • Metuchen, +1.4 percent;
  • Perth Amboy, -10.6 percent
  • Roselle, -11 percent;
  • Woodbridge, +3 percent;

Again, these are percentage changes in the number of overall incidents of crime reported, not necessarily the crime rate per 1,000 residents which can give better context for a town’s size and population. For instance, in 2015, reported incidents in Rahway were up 7 percent yet the change in crime rate was less than 1 percent.

Screen Shot 2017-01-28 at 1.21.39 PM
Year 1 = 1997, Year 20 = 2016

Looking at Rahway in the context of other towns is important as is examining the city’s numbers over a longer period. The year-to-year comparison is only a brief snapshot but now my Rahway crime spreadsheet is up to 20 years, making for a nice, long-term view. The state can tweak how UCR data are presented, for instance, it no longer calculates a crime rate per 1,000 residents but merely overall number of incidents, so you might see some changes or empty cells over the years. Likewise, incidents of domestic violence and bias crime have not been included since 2010; arson since 2013. Still, worth a look.

The turning point in local data points to 2014, when Rahway’s crime rate dropped by a third. The 2016 crime rate of 13.0 is significantly lower than most of the historical averages:

  • 26.06 incidents per 1,000 residents, 20-year average (since 1997)
  • 22.56, 15-year average (since 2002)
  • 19.87, 10-year average (since 2007)
  • 15.64, 5-year average (since 2012)

The rate depends on population, which I calculated based on estimates for recent years, dating to 2014, which projects from the 2010 census. It would be interesting to see how the long-term data look for other towns in the county and surrounding area but that would be quite a deep dive into the data. Generally speaking, crime in the United States overall has been at historic, 20-year lows, down about 16 percent from 1996 to 2015, according to U.S. News and World Report. That window corresponds more or less with my Rahway data, which shows a decline by about two-thirds since 1997.