In December, former Jersey City business administrator and Fulop protégé Brian Platt was quoted as saying, “In Jersey, we had a mayor who would just make up numbers on the fly from the podium.”
We couldn’t help but think of Platt’s words following a recent interview in which the mayor was asked why the city no longer publishes “CompStat” reports.
For anyone new to the issue, the mayor stopped posting the data in 2018. CompStat reports allow people to see how many times in a given period major crimes occurred in their municipality. Newark and New York City report to the public weekly.
In 2018, Mayor Fulop gave no reason for hiding this data from Jersey City residents. Since then, as we and others have ramped up criticism of the decision, he’s offered a number of justifications, none of them convincing.
In the recent interview, he said he stopped releasing CompStat reports because “we’d always find…the same critics, this was mischaracterized, that was mischaracterized, so we found it better just to submit the paperwork to Trenton…the state posts it regularly.”
He went on. “The state acts as a check and balance to make sure that the data we’re providing is accurate…I think that added layer actually works in the benefit of residents.”
But, he claimed, “We’ve posted the most violent crimes.”
It’s always hard to know where to start when analyzing a veritable torrent of half-truths and misrepresentations. But let’s start with “the state posts it regularly.” No, Mr. Mayor, it doesn’t. The last report on the official State Police website is for the three-month period ending in March 2021.
Or how about his claim that “the state acts as a check and balance to make sure that the data we’re providing is accurate.” It doesn’t do that either.
We asked the New Jersey State Police whether they regularly audit Jersey City’s data. They said they do not. If the F.B.I. finds “anomalies,” the state authorities “can verify the accuracy” of the data. But “the reporting agency (in this case Jersey City) is solely responsible for the accuracy of the data,” said the state police official.
Nor, contrary to what the mayor says, does Jersey City “post the most violent crimes.” Go to Jersey City’s website. You’ll find nothing on aggravated assaults, robberies, and rapes. And, incidentally, there’s no mention of serious non-violent crimes like larceny, burglary, auto theft and arson either.
The only crime category the mayor has deigned to report on is homicides, information that is already available from the Hudson County prosecutor.
And, as if to add insult to injury, as of this writing, the city’s homicide count is wrong. So far this year, there have been four homicides in Jersey City, not three as the city’s website says.
But perhaps most galling is the mayor’s statement that all “works in the benefit of residents.” Say that again? Hiding up-to-date crime data from the public helps residents? George Orwell couldn’t have gaslighted the public more effectively.
This isn’t the mayor’s first foray into disinformation surrounding crime. Indeed, in 2021, the mayor blacklisted the Jersey City Times for reporting on his false claims on crime rates. During a presentation in December, the mayor falsely claimed that the city was on pace to see “the lowest number of homicides since records have been kept.”
As the mayor bemoaned the criticism he faces on issues surrounding crime, the interviewer, N.J. Spotlight’s David Cruz, rightly pointed out that “the solution to criticism can’t be to make stuff harder to find.” True enough. But it’s worse. The mayor has made up-to-date crime data impossible to find.
Why would Mayor Fulop continue to dig his heals in on CompStat reports? Only he, and perhaps Public Safety Director James Shea, know. Let’s hope it isn’t with an eye to manipulating the data for political reasons.
What is clear is that the people who pay his salary and that of every city employee are the owners of the data the mayor has suppressed. It’s time for him to turn it over.