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Will New Jersey police layoffs lead to a rise in crime?

Since five New Jersey cities experienced substantial cuts to their police departments earlier this year, arrests and summonses for minor violations there have plunged, according to news reports.

Some worry that fewer arrests for traffic offenses and other minor violations could one day lead to a rise in serious crime.

An Associated Press analysis of court data shows that when police departments are forced to lay officers off, arrests and citations for all levels of crime drop. Resources are shifted so the remaining officers are focused on more serious offenses, rather than enforcement of traffic laws and minor criminal violations.

Before the layoffs in five New Jersey cities - Newark, Camden, Atlantic City, Paterson and Trenton -- police departments there were issuing thousands more summonses per month than they are today.

In Newark, for instance, officers issued approximately 5,100 summonses per month for curfew violations, littering and other minor infractions. After the layoffs, the number of like summonses fell by nearly half.

In Camden, about half the police force was laid off in January. Summonses for speeding and similar traffic violations there have fallen from 3,820 per month pre-layoffs to 1,850 after the layoffs.

"People are committing crimes and they're not suffering the consequences for it," said one county prosecutor. "I think it has emboldened those who are committing the crimes. They do not get arrested, and consequently, they continue committing these crimes."

Some authorities believe that with the drastic cuts in police funding, some New Jersey cities may regress to the crime rates they were accustomed to in the 1970s and 1980s.

Source: Associated Press, "Fewer cops translates to fewer arrests," Geoff Mulvihill, Nov. 24, 2011

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