An increase in petty crimes caused the South Brunswick crime rate to increase for the year 2011, according to the latest Uniform Crime Report.
The township's overall crime rate went from 11.5 per 1,000 residents in 2010 to 12.4 per 1,000 residents in 2011. Non-violent crimes jumped from 469 in 2010 to 509 in 2011.
Middlesex County as a whole experienced a 7 percent increase in crime, with 16,581 offenses reported in 2011. South Brunswick's increase was due mainly to a spike in larcenies, which jumped from 345 in 2010 to 394 in 2011.
"The majority of crime increases in 2011 were for petty crimes or larcenies, which are typically crimes of opportunity," said Chief Raymond Hayducka. "Many of these crimes are committed by offenders addicted to drugs such as heroin and Oxycotin. They steal items and trade it for drugs."
South Brunswick's Crime Index Total increased from 499 incidents to 537, however incidents of violent crime decreased from 31 in 2010 to 28 in 2011. Burglaries dropped from 99 to 86, while motor vehicle thefts increased from 24 to 29.
Incidents of rape rose from two in 2010 to four in 2011, robberies fell from nine to six, aggravated assault fell from 20 to 18, and incidents of arson increased from zero in 2010 to three last year.
Hayducka highlighted the work of police investigators, whose percentages of cases that led to arrests came in significantly superior to state and county averages.
"Our department continually has one of the highest clearance rates in the county," he said. "Our UCR case clearance for Part I crimes has risen for each of the past two years to 32 percent. The statewide average is 20 percent. Our success in solving these cases is based on witnesses in the community and intelligence sharing with other law enforcement agencies."
Despite the increase in the overall crime rate, South Brunswick Township tied for the fourth lowest crime rate in Middlesex County.
Coming in ahead of South Brunswick was Plainsboro, with a crime rate of 7.1 and a population of 22,999; Monroe, with a crime rate of 7.7 and a population of 39,132; and Middlesex Borough, with a crime rate of 10.5 and a population of 13,635. Helmetta, with a population of 2,178, tied South Brunswick for fourth.
With a population of over 43,000, the township still compared favorably to the rest of Middlesex County.
"Our low crime rate is result of the collaborative effort between the police and the community, with the support of our mayor and council," Hayducka said. "Time and again the community has been an instrumental partner in fighting crime. The Council and Mayor have repeatedly supported funding new technology that allows officers to be more effective in the streets."
South Brunswick still finished well below its overall crime rate in 2008, when the department experienced a significant drop. in 2008 to 10.4 per 1,000 residents in 2009.
The South Brunswick Police Department is down from 82 officers in 2008 to 73 officers currently working for the department.
"My priority has been to maintain staffing levels on the road," Hayducka said. "We have been able to shift personnel to these needed areas despite the decrease in officers. The department has also worked in partnership with other local, county, state and federal law enforcement agencies to maximize investigative efforts."
While property crimes and burglaries typically spike during times of economic hardship, Hayducka added that the department must remain focused on the task at hand while working to forge a productive relationship with residents.
"Our success with combating crime is based on our initiatives, the community’s partnership, and the dedication of the men and women of the South Brunswick Police Department have resulted in a low crime rate," he said. "We must stay vigilant in monitoring ever changing issues and patterns to stay on top of the communities concerns and crime."