Robbery, larceny spike but overall crime rate flat

Robbery and larceny spiked last year, but most other crime remained below the five-year average as Rahway’s crime rate dipped. Released last month, the state’s Uniform Crime Report (UCR) compiles town-by-town data from 2008.

Rahway’s overall crime rate dropped from 26.7 to 26.4 per 1,000 residents, a result of a higher estimated population as the number of reported crimes (744) actually remained the same in 2008 as in 2007. The crime rate is the 7th highest (or 14th lowest) among 21 towns in Union County, sandwiched between Kenilworth (23.0) and Roselle (30.9), both of which reported sharp increases last year.

The overall crime rate in Union County was 32.0, up from 29.4 (+8.8%), with 13 towns reporting jumps in their crime rates (the same number as last year, though not necessarily the same towns). Elizabeth had the highest (55.5), Berkeley Heights the lowest (6.8). The median rate in Union County was in Roselle Park (18.2). Police Chief John Rodger was pleased to see the crime rate remain static in Rahway at a time when other towns saw large jumps. “It’s incredible that we did not see a substantial increase, and I attribute that to the hard work of the men and women we have serving here in Rahway,” he said.

Some surge in the crime rate was anticipated – but not yet realized – because of the economy, Rodger said. Robberies are one type of crime directly impacted by the economy and have jumped in Rahway, though they’re usually of a serial nature so once a perpetrator is identified, he said many cases are cleared. “Generally, going into the holiday season we also see an increase in robberies,” he added.

Some key points in Rahway’s data:
* Burglary was down 10 percent, from 125 incidents in 2007 to 112 in 2008.
* Larceny was up only 3 percent from 463, but did hit a five-year high of 477.
* Motor vehicle thefts (65) and aggravated assault (24) are at five-year lows.

* Robbery was up by 5 incidents (8.5%), but still a five-year high of 64.
* Domestic violence jumped from 396 to 499 (26%). No real answer for this, as I’ve been told it can fluctuate year to year more than any category because of reporting issues. The ’08 figure is actually lower than several years ago when it was up near 700.
Most all other categories were up or down by no more than four or five incidents from 2007 to 2008, and except for robbery and larceny, all categories were below Rahway’s five-year averages.

Larceny accounted for almost three-quarters of the 654 reported incidents in nonviolent categories. Increases in larceny can be directly attributed to GPS thefts, which have become a common dilemma nationwide, according to Rodger. “A large majority of our thefts are GPS units left in cars overnight,” he said, and the department has tried to inform the public about removing them when not in use.

Please enjoy this Excel spreadsheet detailing UCR data for Rahway over the last five years. Here’s a longer view of crime data going back to 1997. Because of changes in the law and how the UCR is tabulated, in addition to the change in staff locally, Rodger said it’s difficult to compare more than five years of data, so keep in mind going that far back may not even be an apples-to-apples comparison. I just thought I’d share them because I have them.