Criminal law

Advocates say a storm of “tough on crime” bills in New Jersey is bad news

NEW JERSEY – The public perception is clear, experts say: Americans believe crime is on the rise. But according to New Jersey social justice advocates, the storm of “tough on crime” laws recently proposed in the state won’t make your neighborhood safer — although it does. will Put a whole bunch of people in jail.

Earlier this week, the ACLU of New Jersey and more than two dozen other New Jersey-based groups submitted a letter to the state’s senators and assembly, “strongly opposing” a wave of legislation that they say will “review successful criminals.” Legal reforms have led to higher rates of mass incarceration, as happened in the 1980s and 1990s.

Read the full letter here.

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“Crime rates in the past few years are still being analyzed and the full picture is not perfect; However, no matter what they show, any trends must be analyzed within a broad historical lens.

They continued, “While there have been increases in some types of crime nationally and in[our state]the crime rate increase in New Jersey remains below the national average.” “What this shows is that all too often, concerns about public safety are not based on accurate and complete data.”

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The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU-NJ) has blocked a proposed law seeking this Undo bail reform in the state – Sponsored by two Democrats – as an example of “tough on crime” legislation that isn’t all it can be.

According to the ACLU, if the bill is passed, it “will lead to an explosion in the number of presumed innocent people imprisoned before trial, fuel mass incarceration, and exacerbate already stark racial disparities in New Jersey prisons.”

“Here are the facts: Tough policies against crime are not based on evidence, data, or justice,” said the ACLU-New Jersey. “They rely on biased and inaccurate claims, as well as racist tropes that have long been exploited, for political gain at enormous human cost. It is unfortunate that candidates, police and politicians exploit concerns about safety to undermine proven, evidence-based policies that would address these very concerns .

“Rather than cracking down on crime bills that have already clearly failed, we should do the hard work of having honest and open discussions about why people commit certain crimes rather than further unnecessary criminalization,” the group added.

The power of general perception

A recent Gallup poll reported that 56% of US residents believe crime rates have worsened in their local area over the past year. Currently, 73% of Republicans say crime in their area has risen, while 51% of Independents and 42% of Democrats say the same. pollsters said.

This includes New Jersey, where lawmakers have launched a series of bills aimed at cracking down on crime, including auto theft. Read more: Democratic and Republican lawmakers say carjacking in New Jersey is an ‘epidemic’

New Jersey officials reported 14,320 car thefts in 2021 — a 22 percent increase from the previous year. So far this year, 13,849 vehicle thefts have been reported, state police said in November. Read more: 14,000 cars have been stolen from the streets of New Jersey this year, and Murphy is calling for action

State police also said they’re taking a closer look at what they call the “CorrStat District” in New Jersey, a 19-mile stretch of Rt. 21 which connects Paterson and Newark. 80 cities in northeastern New Jersey are in the CorrStat region, including Newark. In 2021, the CorrStat area accounted for 63 percent of all auto thefts in the state. Police said car thefts in that area are up 31 percent so far in 2022. Read more: Penalties for carjacking in New Jersey may increase under the new bills

However, reporting crime statistics is a notoriously subjective process, and can be easily manipulated depending on how you define “crime”, the location and the time period you’re analyzing, The Marshall Project recently noticed:

“Nationally, what we know from FBI data reported to the police, and from FBI data Annual Federal Survey What asked about 240,000 people if they were personally victims of crime was that violent crime and property crime had been in steady decline since the early 1990s. Homicides have increased at an alarming and alarming rate nationwide in 2020, and have remained high, but murder is the least common form of violent crime. Overall, violent crime has remained roughly flat since 2010, after decades of declining.

Other reports claimed that the overall crime rate had decreased in recent years.

According to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network, sexual violence has fallen by half in the past 20 years (the organization notes that there are There is still much work to be doneIn the United States, someone is sexually assaulted every 68 seconds).

In 2020, FiveThirtyEight reported that Americans are “bad” at it Estimate the risk of being a victim of crime:

“Crime rates fluctuate from year to year. In 2020, for example, the homicide rate is up but other crime is going down, resulting in a decrease in the overall crime rate. The trend line for violent crime over the past 30 years has been in the direction of Decreasing, not rising.The Bureau of Justice Statistics found that the violent crime rate per 1,000 Americans ages 12 and older fell from 80 in 1993 to just 23 in 2018. The country has become a lot safer, but, somehow, Americans seem to be They don’t feel it. It’s on an emotional level.

So what about New Jersey?

The Criminal Defense Attorney’s Office recently took a look at national FBI data and found that New Jersey has the fifth-lowest violent crime rate in the United States, behind Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont and Connecticut.

On average, 398.5 violent crimes were committed nationwide per 100,000 people in 2020. In New Jersey, that rate was only 195.3 violent crimes per 100,000 people. Jorge Villa’s legal office reported.

Some cities and towns in the Garden State have reported statistics consistent with these findings.

And in 2021, the former Newark public safety director said that over the past three years, the city has seen the lowest number of homicides in six decades. Violent crime rose in New Jersey’s largest city last year and car thefts rose 18 percent — largely because drivers “left their cars running unattended.” But property crime decreased in all other categories, with decreases in burglaries, carjackings and other thefts. Read more: Newark violent crime rates up for 2021, but down over 3 years

And in nearby Essex County, West Orange officials announced earlier this year that the crime rate had reached a 41-year low, and they attributed some of the gains to more “community policing” and a new program where trained mental health doctors are called upon to respond. Along with officers on some crisis calls, which may not be of a criminal nature. Read more: Police say the crime rate in West Orange is at a 41-year low

‘Hysterical Proposals’: New Jersey advocates speak out

Several New Jersey social justice advocates took part in the debate earlier this week. Among them were:

Jim Sullivan, deputy director for policy at the American Civil Liberties Union in New Jersey. Lawmakers should remember that in 2014, New Jersey voters took decisive action to effectively end cash bail and replace it with a system that has been held up across the country as “a model for other states.” If passed, attempts to roll back bail reform would lead to An explosion in the number of innocent people imprisoned before trial, a worsening of mass incarceration, and an increase in stark racial disparities in New Jersey prisons.Our sense of safety has been threatened by events we see on the news 24/7 or that we may experience in person, but “tough” policies “With Crime” these are not based on evidence, data or justice. They rely on biased and inaccurate claims, as well as racist tropes that have been exploited for too long, for political gain at enormous human cost. People from across the political spectrum want an approach to the system “A criminal jurist is crime-savvy and racially just and fair. Now is the time for New Jersey to build on its historic decriminalization and decriminalization efforts — not undo them.”

Reverend Charles Boyer, Founding Director of Salvation and Social Justice “New Jersey needs a legislature that responds to the needs and concerns of communities through legislation informed by data rather than one that continues to be driven by punitive and harsh narratives. The facts are clear, which is that so-called “tough against crime” bills like S3347 do not prevent crime nor make communities safer What you will do is continue to feed a disproportionate number of black corpses through the prison industrial complex and further exacerbate the stark racial disparities that already exist in the state.

Amy Torres, executive director of the New Jersey Coalition for Immigrant Justice “Tough proposals on crime serve only one purpose: to distract the public. Indeed, hysterical proposals, such as those recently submitted to the legislature, are designed to deflect attention from the failure to pass transformative policies that can build the social safety net. The safest communities are Communities where everyone has access to the programs, services, and rights that empower and protect them.New Jersey is more diverse than ever, but we remain more divided than ever by racial disparities that would only run deeper with such harmful propositions It is the responsibility of the state to invest in its people and not indulge in the racist hysteria that has generated these policies.

Alex Staropoli, Director of Advocacy and Communications, Center for Fair Housing – “True community safety comes from investments in housing, health care, food, and education. Bringing back misguided “crime-fighting” policies from our past will only harm communities of color and further entrench racial disparities that are already such a huge problem in our state. Now is not the time to go back. Backwards We must instead work towards a future that includes real solutions to the problems our societies face.

Marlena Opel, Policy Analyst and Fellow of State Politics at New Jersey State Politics Perspectives – “These bills are not anchored in data, they are a knee jerk that will only criminalize more people. Equating carjacking with violent crime reminds us of the kind of ‘tough on crime’ approach that exacerbates mass incarceration in When he fails to actually get to the root of the problem.

Zaid Mohamed, organizer of N-CAP and NJ-CAP – “We demand that the legislature unite to move forward and continue the work of criminal justice and police reform, rather than stepping back and criminalizing members of the community. Lawmakers have stood up and committed to community-helping public safety change after the killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, and we invite you to dare to work with us for real reform of the police and criminal legal system.

Yannick Wood, Director of the Criminal Justice Reform Program at the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice – “We urge the state not to resort again to ill-conceived failed policies, which although promoted as ‘tough on crime’, in reality do not reduce crime in the long term but only perpetuate the vicious cycle of excess In prison and recidivism. Especially for blacks and other communities of color. New Jersey needs to build on its successful record of bail reform and invest in communities and programs that address root causes if we are to break this cycle and achieve lasting success. New Jersey has the opportunity to lead creatively and courageously. Let’s not We waste it.”

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