Jersey City has fallen over two years behind in reporting crime data to the state and F.B.I. says a high-ranking official with the New Jersey State Police. As a result, accurate information on crime in New Jersey’s second largest city is unavailable.
According to the official, who was not authorized to speak on behalf of the agency and asked that his name not be used, Jersey City’s data after 2020 is unusable. “A couple of the categories that jumped out at me, especially when I looked at their 2021 data, 2022 data, and 2023 data, I noticed that the categories of robberies and burglaries was low, much lower than years previously reported in the past.”
The official blamed Jersey City’s reporting problem on staffing. “I think there’s a personnel issue. They only have one person there who’s doing UCR and Jersey City is a busy department. It’s my understanding that that’s not the only job they’re doing.”
The New Jersey State Police department is responsible for gathering and vetting each municipality’s crime data, which is ultimately reported to the F.B.I. as part of the Uniform Crime Reporting program. The crime data is used by the public, media, and academics to analyze trends and formulate policy responses. For New Jersey police departments, participation in the program is mandatory.
A complication for many cities has been the transition, beginning in 2021, to the National Incident Based Reporting System. With NIBRS, the F.B.I. has asked police departments to add 49 additional offenses to the eight crimes that made up the original UCR system. In addition, the system compiles data on the amount of property lost, demographic information about victims, offenders, and persons arrested, and what type of weapon, if any, was used in the incident.
But other nearby cities are doing much better than Jersey City and devoting sufficient resources, according to the official. “Newark is doing NIBRS, they came on around  and they’re doing a great job” said the official. “Newark, I think, has three or four people that do it. Camden has five people that are just dedicated to doing UCR. Jersey City has one person. One person to do all of the crime statistics for a major city in the state, that’s asking a lot. It’s important to have a team of people.”
Colin Drane, the founder and CEO of national crime data aggregator SpotCrime, thinks the difficulty of providing NIBRS crime data is overblown. “Atlanta is 400,000 [in population] and they did it. We live in a world of AI. We live in a world of fast databases. It’s not that hard. It’s not that expensive or complex.”
Drane sees a more practical downside of Jersey City not having accurate and up-to-date crime statistics. “If you’re running a police department and you’re a police chief, you need to see what happened yesterday. There’s no way the chief is getting a daily report. And if he’s not getting a daily report, how could he run a police department?”
The close to three years of missing crime data would call into question the truthfulness of Mayor Fulop’s statement earlier this year on the issue. When asked in an interview why the city no longer published CompStat crime statistics, Fulop said “we found it better just to submit the paperwork to Trenton…the state posts it regularly…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” he said.
Despite the mayor’s claim, Jersey City’s recent crime data is, in fact, unavailable. “Looking at the numbers here, it would be a little irresponsible for me to give out these as ‘hey here’s what their stats are.’ I saw a dramatic reduction in their crime…you’re not going to sit there and say that’s accurate” said the official.
The official makes a plea to police departments like Jersey City’s. “We just want to make sure that people do what they’re supposed to do, put their data in.”
Jersey City’s spokeswoman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.