I’ve watched burglary rates continue to rise in many jurisdictions around the US: the faltering economy, lingering high unemployment, and other factors (including increased drug abuse) all contribute to this disturbing trend. Certain jurisdictions have seen local crime rates skyrocket, at a time when cities and towns are cutting law enforcement expenses to balance a budget. It’s generally a bad scene, with little sign of improvement ahead. One New Jersey community is experiencing all these negative effects:
A rash of burglaries has erupted in West Orange over the last month-and-a-half. The spike in crime comes on the heels of municipal budget cuts that laid off eight police officers and demoted another 16. The cuts were made in March to plug a $3.4 million municipal deficit.
Residential Crime Stats – Bad News
Township records show there allegedly have been more than 80 total burglaries to both residences and motor vehicles since April. Township officials place the number of reported car break-ins at 61 and the number of stolen vehicles at 12. According to the papers, roughly 40 burglaries were reported in April and 40 more have been reported since the beginning of May — a major hike in the past two weeks, according to official sources.
Sources said the burglaries likely are related and are being carried out by individuals outside West Orange. Said West Orange Police Chief James Abbott, “We are out there actively searching for suspects and we are extremely confident that we will find and arrest the person or persons responsible for these crimes.” Township officials confirmed the burglaries are primarily in the western part of the township, but did not release any further information.
Manpower Does Matter
“We’ve seen a drastic increase in crimes since the [police] layoffs, as have surrounding communities that have also laid off officers,” said West Orange Police Officer and Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association President Christopher Jacksic. He said there’s been a significant reduction in supervision on the street, traffic officers and school resource officers. “We are continuing to attempt to do more with less,” he said.
Residents Speak Out
Bernie Mooney, of West Orange, said there were two burglaries and one attempted burglary on his block, Eagle Terrace, three weeks ago — all to residences. “This is the safest neighborhood and, in all the time I’ve been here, we’ve never had a problem,” he said. Mooney said that while he hasn’t seen as many police patrolling his area in April as in previous months, he has seen an increase in police presence since the burglaries. “It used to be 24/7 normally, but it slowed down,” he said. While he didn’t attribute the spike in burglaries to recent layoffs, Mooney said he’s against them, “that’s the safety of the town.”
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