WEST ORANGE, NJ - West Orange Chief of Police James Abbott gave a detailed report regarding crime statistics in the township for the first three quarters of 2013 at the Oct. 1 Township Council meeting.
The police force currently has 91 sworn officers, three of whom just began work on the force. Two more are set to begin at the academy. The same number remains on the street, even after the layoffs of two years ago. Two officers are currently out on disability due to injuries received in a carjacking chase. Their vehicle was hit by the suspect.
The Street Crimes Unit, which has worked to increase a presence around town, whether in patrol cars, or unmarked cars, made 73 arrests from January through August. Last year saw a total of 53 arrests for the year. A total of 760 motor vehicle stops have been made, compared to last year's total of 295.
Comparisons to other towns for 2012 figures show that West Orange had a 29 percent clearance (or closure) rate for robberies (31) and 10 percent for burglaries (148); Montclair, 38.5 percent for robberies (26) and 15.9 percent for burglaries (220); Belleville, 26.8 percent for robberies (41) and 19.6 percent for burglaries (204); Bloomfield, 28.8 percent for robberies (73) and 14.4 percent for burglaries (263); and Orange, 15.9 percent for robberies (138) and 7.2 percent for burglaries (264).
From January through September, West Orange experienced one homicide; one rape; 38 robberies; 113 assaults; 107 burglaries; 43 motor vehicle thefts, and one arson. The most notable spike was an increase in armed robberies. 2012 showed a total of 12 for the first three quarters of 2012, and 23 for the first three quarters of 2013.
Currently the WOPD has a 23 percent clearance rate for robberies through September, and a 9.4 percent for burglaries.
Abbott explained the reasons behind the figures. When addressing burglaries, for instance, he cited the case of an individual arrested in connection with a robbery at Krauzer's. The individual was also a suspect in a string of robberies in the Valley/Gregory sections. He has not confessed to those robberies, though since his arrest, there have been none.
Abbott also described that crime patterns can come in spikes with no rhyme or reason, citing the spike in robberies over the past few months. He also noted that surrounding towns are experiencing similar spikes. He mentioned that easy access to illegal gun purchases have increased the number of handguns out on the street.
Surveillance cameras and technology have provided assistance in solving several crimes, including the discovery that two reported robberies were false. Grant monies will provide two more cameras. The Main Street corridor and Valley sections of town currently have surveillance cameras installed in key locations, and those cameras provide 24 hour real-time access to those locations with several hundred feet of area covered by each camera. The information is on screen at the WOPD and can be sent to police cars equipped to receive the transmission.
Of concern to the council was the amount of overtime that sometimes occurs on the force. Abbott likened it to public service workers that had to deal with blizzards or storms. A police officer cannot work more than 16 hours in a row before having to receive eight hours off. "We do what we have to do to make things work" said Abbott.
(Editor's Note: The following information was added to the article on October 3)
The following links provide the statistics from the West Orange Police Department: