While major — or Part 1 crimes — in South Orange have decreased substantially over the past 10 years, the township has seen an increase in the last year in some major crime areas, including burglaries and auto theft.
Village President Sheena Collum presented information on Part 1 crimes at the Sept. 26 Board of Trustees meeting, noting that the South Orange Police are launching an initiative to promote safety and help citizens combat such crimes (see below).
“Because we are seeing a lot of discussion online about what is happening with burglaries, robberies, theft, motor vehicle theft, and topics that fall within the realm of public safety, let me just take you through what this chart means. This is Part 1 crime statistics. We generally talk about part one crime as more serious crimes. You’re not going to see noise violations on here or line of sight or property maintenance or the party that occurred next door. These are, again, more of a serious nature.”
Collum sought to provide definitions of crimes, explaining that a robbery is when is when there is a threat of violence or actual violence, whereas a burglary is someone entering into a structure that they are not supposed to enter (such as a home, business or car). Theft is “no one went into your home or your car” but included stealing items from a porch or a store.
Collum noted the spikes in crime year over year from 2022 to 2023:
- Burglary – at 20 through the end of August 2023, compared to 10 through August 2022
- Motor Vehicle Theft – at 25 through August 2023, compared to 18 through August 2022
Notably, there have been three rapes reported in South Orange this year, with 2 of those incidents reported in August. Previously there were no rapes reported from 2019 through 2022.
The statistics also showed that some Part 1 crimes had decreased year over year, including assault and theft.
Collum reported that the South Orange Police Department was announcing “a series of services that they’re providing to residents free of charge where they will come out to your home and do an inspection. They can help you if you are interested in installing something such as a security camera on your property, or if you want to look at lighting outside of your home.”
“My heart goes out to everybody who has been the victim of one of these crimes,” said Collum. “While numbers never really tell a story, we know that it is such an invasion of your home and life, and to have property stolen from you is very, very serious. You are seeing an uptick throughout New Jersey, but I think it’s important for the South Orange community to know the actual numbers of what’s impacting us right now, and to always feel free to call the police department as soon as you see something.”
Collum noted “one positive takeaway”:
“As we look at the part one crimes, again, the serious crimes over the past decade, and if we look at that period from, say, 2012 to 2022, back in 2012, we had a total of 432 Part 1 crimes. And 10 years later for the same crimes, it is almost half that amount at 204.”
“So there has been really good and smart policing, a great professional department, wonderful leadership within our police department where there has been a substantial decrease in crime over the past decade in our community. But nonetheless, that does not make these instances that we are seeing online and the captured ring videos and the testimonies of our fellow residents any less alarming. So we are just asking everybody to be safe, take these additional security measures to protect yourselves and your property. And we hope you take advantage of some of the services that the police department will be offering.”
From South Orange Police Chief Ernesto Morillo on October 11, 2023:
October 11, 2023 – South Orange Police Chief Ernesto Morillo today issued a statement addressing crime in South Orange Village.
“We share the community’s concern about the increase in residential burglaries in New Jersey, where motor vehicle theft is often the objective. We also want to reassure the community that, overall, South Orange is very safe. Over the last 10 years our crime statistics have had a significant downward trajectory,” stated Morillo. Residents are encouraged to visit the South Orange website (southorange.org/199/Police-Department), blotter tab, to read more details on local Part 1 crime statistics.
“That said, South Orange had experienced a slight increase in burglary and motor vehicle thefts and the South Orange Police Department (SOPD) stands ready to assist homeowners with home and property safety strategies,” Morillo continued.
SOPD has officers who are certified in home security assessment and who will conduct a security survey of residents’ homes, free of charge. Additionally, the SOPD asks residents to take steps to secure their home and property. Residents can email email@example.com to request a home security survey, free of charge.
It is important to note that almost all vehicle thefts in the area have been committed with the key fob inside the vehicle. Therefore, to help avoid accidentally leaving a fob behind, it is recommended that residents develop a routine that keeps their fob on their person or in personal belongings carried with them.
To ensure the safety and security of all residents, the department recommends some basic home security practices such as locking doors, windows, and vehicles. In addition to these practices, residents are encouraged to consider additional measures which have been proven effective, such as home alarm systems, exterior illumination/motion-activated lighting, doorbell or security cameras, anti-theft devices, and tracking devices.
By working together, the community can ensure a safer and more secure environment for everyone that is less attractive to would be actors.