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AP: NJ cop layoffs cut arrests for minor offenses

By Geoff Mulvihill

Associated Press

Published: Sunday, Nov. 20 2011 2:06 p.m. MST

As layoff days approached, officers turned in their badges and lined up their boots on city sidewalks to symbolize what was being lost. Some officers took jobs on growing police forces in places like Nashville, Tenn.

Officials in Newark, Trenton, Camden and Paterson have either declined to be interviewed about the drop in arrests or not responded to requests. Their unions have said the cutbacks will directly cause crime in all categories to spike. While that could be true, it's a hard case to prove.

In Camden, for instance, reported crime has been up in almost all categories this year compared with 2010 and 2009. But crime has multiple causes, and experts caution that it's hard to determine how much of the increase could be because of layoffs.

The comprehensive arrest data collected by the New Jersey courts provide a picture of how police priorities have changed in the wake of layoffs.

The statistics include arrests and summonses by offense category and are compiled monthly. The AP reviewed data from January 2009 through September in order to capture trends before and after police layoffs.

In four of the New Jersey cities with deep cuts, the story has been similar. There have been fewer arrests per month, post-layoffs, for most types of offenses, but the biggest decreases are for the least serious crimes. In Trenton, where the layoffs came in mid-September, it's too early to tell, though arrests in every kind of case declined sharply in September in the capital city.

"In general, the less-serious stuff is treated with more discretion," said Mike Maxfield, a criminal justice professor at New York City's John Jay College. "You can't write off a bank robbery, you can't ignore a homicide."

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Reach Mulvihill at http://www.twitter.com/geoffmulvihill

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