Violent crime declined in Atlantic City, Millville, Vineland and many other area municipalities in 2010, crime statistics issued by the FBI on Monday show.
Across the region, the number of violent crimes dropped by 2 percent, compared with a 6 percent decline recorded nationwide from 2009 to 2010, the FBI data showed. Nationally, the numbers marked the fourth straight year-to-year decline, while property crime was down for the eighth straight year, falling nearly 3 percent, the FBI reported.
An aging population, better policing and continued high rates of imprisonment for criminals are helping to drive down crime rates, criminologists say.
However, property crimes increased by 5 percent in the 43 municipalities in Atlantic, Cape May, Cumberland and southern Ocean counties for which year-to-year data were available.
Exceptions to the decline in violent crime included Pleasantville, which experienced a 13 percent increase, mainly due to an increase in aggravated assaults and robberies. Other area towns that experienced increases included Egg Harbor Township, Somers Point, Lacey Township and Barnegat Township.
Violent crime dropped by 19 percent in Vineland from 2009 to 2010 and by 17 percent in Millville, the FBI data show. Other area towns experiencing significant declines included Lower Township, Stafford Township and Hammonton.
In Atlantic City, the number of violent crimes declined year to year from 825 to 783, a 5 percent drop, although the number of murders and non-negligent manslaughters rose from 10 to 11, data show. The overall numbers fell largely because of declines in aggravated assaults and rapes.
During 2010, the Atlantic City Police Department experienced two rounds of layoffs that cut 60 police officers from the force. Most of the officers have been hired back.
“The last thing we should do is get complacent and say ‘mission accomplished, and so let’s transfer resources away to other areas,’” said James Alan Fox, a criminologist at Northeastern University. “You don’t solve the crime problem. You only control it. Without sufficient support for policing and crime prevention, the numbers can go back up.”
The expectation had been that crime would increase in a weak economy with high unemployment such as that seen in 2010.
“The connection between crime and the economy is an illusion,” said University of Cincinnati professor John Eck, who teaches criminal justice research methods. Eck suggested that one important factor in driving down crime rates is improved policing practices that focus on high-crime locations in which “you are denying the criminal the ability to attack targets. Virtually every large city is doing something.”
Eck said that since the 1970s, property crime has been going down and “probably the best explanation is that people are getting better at protecting their belongings, with all the simple devices industry has made to help — from car burglar alarms to better bicycle locks.”
The number of property crimes — burglary, larceny and car thefts — in Atlantic City increased by 19 percent in 2010, the FBI statistics show. Property crimes increased in two-thirds of area towns included in the data, with some of the highest percentage increases found in Hammonton, Egg Harbor City, Brigantine and Avalon.
Nationwide, there were an estimated 1.2 million violent crimes reported to authorities in 2010 and an estimated 9 million property crimes.
Robbery fell 10 percent; rape dropped 5 percent; and murder, non-negligent manslaughter and aggravated assault fell more than 4 percent.
Each category of property crimes decreased in 2010. The largest decline, 7.4 percent, was for motor vehicle thefts. Burglaries decreased 2 percent and larceny-thefts declined more than 2 percent.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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