The New Jersey Attorney General’s Office is currently collecting data from the state’s 21 counties to determine whether there is a correlation between rising temperatures and rising crime rates.
Throughout the state, especially in shore towns and urban centers, the beginning of summer often is associated with a greater frequency of crimes. The summer crime increase has often been supported by anecdotal evidence only. Now, the Attorney General’s Office is looking for supportive data and a way to help those towns in which rising summer crime is a problem.
Attorney General’s Office Spokesman Paul Loriquet said chiefs of local police departments have submitted crime statistics to their county prosecutor’s offices, and the prosecutors are compiling the data in reports that are being sent to the state.
“In the next couple of weeks, the attorney general will meet with the (county) prosecutors to review the reports and provide support that is needed by the various jurisdictions,” he said. “The attorney general wanted to be one step ahead of the curve when it comes to developing strategies.”
Loriquet said Paula Dow, the state’s attorney general, has an interest in helping those municipalities that have difficulty managing the increase in crime, though in what capacity remains to be seen.
The state will be putting together a strategy to fight summer crime, hopefully as early as this summer, Loriquet said.
The reason crime rates rise in the summer varies. In shore towns, the reasons mostly have to do with burgeoning populations of summer tourists.
In Cape May County, Prosecutor Bob Taylor said, the height of the summer can see the county’s population grow temporarily to as many as 750,000 to 1 million, most of the people from out of town.
“That vast number of people does present a problem,” he said.
For years the strategy at shore destinations has remained the same. Police departments hire temporary officers, often called “specials,” to help patrol tourist-heavy areas like boardwalks in Wildwood and Ocean City.
Cumberland County Prosecutor Jennifer Webb-McRae said crime doesn’t necessarily increase in the summer. In some instances, the stats her office compiled pointed to other times of the year as the busiest for law enforcement.
When crime, especially violent crime, happens as the weather starts to turn warm, there’s an immediate response to associate the two. But, in some municipalities with urban centers, the summer crime increase is real.
Webb-McRae said her office submitted its study to the state on Friday.
“We’re hoping it gives us a game plan that we can work with during the summer that will allow us to target some violent offenders and get those with active warrants off of the streets,” she said.
Dow hasn’t promised the municipalities anything, Webb-McRae said, other than a serious interest in collecting the data, analyzing it and proceeding from there. The study was born out of a meeting between Dow and the state’s county prosecutors over concern about summer crime.
The attorney general and the county prosecutors meet at least once each month to discuss relevant issues. Once the data from this study is collected, Dow and the prosecutors will meet again, this time to possibly initiate a strategy.
That could come as early as this month, Loriquet said.
“They’re not promising anything, but it is apparent to me that they’re concerned maybe about parole violators, getting them off the streets. That’s one of the issues that were addressed,” Webb-McRae said. “It’s obvious that if they’re interested in summer crime trends that they’ll get back to us as soon as they can.”
Contact Edward Van Embden: