Recent data shows that, overall, crime in Manchester rose in 2010, a trend that the township's chief of said likely cannot be explained by any single factor.
Statistics recently released by the FBI show that there were 24 violent crimes — which include 21 aggrevated assaults, two robberies and one forcible rape — reported in 2010 when the township's population was 42,400. There were 459 instances of property crime that same year — 140 burglaries, 9 vehicle thefts and 310 larcenies/thefts.
"Looking at the two years from 2009 to 2010, we can say that the economy had a lot to do with where we're at today with the increase in stats," said Chief of Police Brian Klimakowski.
In comparison, Manchester experienced 17 violent crimes and 383 property crimes in 2009. Looking back to 2005, the township had 14 violent crimes and 347 property crimes and roughly the same population.
Despite the rise, Manchester's crime rate remains proportionally lower than many surrounding municipalities — in a comparison among 10 Ocean County towns, Manchester is near the bottom of the list in terms of violent and property crimes per 1,000 residents (see chart below).
Klimakowski and township administrators have already begun to address a part of the problem: law enforcement staffing shortages.
"Our goal is to rebuild the police department back to where it needs to be," said Klimakowski, who took over as chief on Feb. 1, 2011. "I can't fix the economy, but I can fix the police department."
Those fixes include adequately distributing manpower and adding staff to the detective bureau to solve crimes and catch repeat offenders early on, rather than after they have committed numerous offenses, he said.
The department has faced over the past three years. In 2008, Klimakowski said that the force was at its peak with 68 officers, but 10 were lost to retirement over the following years. Only after renegotiating contracts with the local PBA was the department, which now employs 62 officers, able to begin hiring staff this past August in hopes of reaching 64 officers by June, 2012.
"With more officers out on patrol, there would be more of a police presence," Klimakowski said. "We can certainly speculate and say that if there are more officers out there, maybe the thefts and burglaries wouldn't have taken place."
Being effectively two officers short in the detective bureau has been difficult. The bureau should employ six detectives, Klimakowski said. Five are on presently on staff, though one is often tied up with administrative duties including evidence and Megan's Law management.
"If we had adequate staffing at that time in the detective bureau, these crimes could have been solved earlier which may have reduced the number," he said.
The chief also said that in 2010, a single individual was responsible for a number of burglaries in the township's Pine Lake Park which section which, Klimakowski said, accounted for a portion of the increase.
Brick and Toms River, two bigger local municipalities, in their crime data.
"Everybody is experiencing the increase," Klimakowski said. "I can't say definitively, but I can speculate, that a lot of it has to do with the economy and people being out of work."
The chief said that criminals have appeared more desperate recently, as the department has investigated "every type of theft imaginable," including more instances of people stealing scrap metal, Klimakowski said.
Manchester administrators, like other towns, must be mindful of tightening budgets, which makes adding officers difficult. Even though the department has added officers, the recently introduced municipal budget shows that the total salaries and wages for police is proposed to drop $125,000 from 2011.
"I don't know of anyone who has increased their numbers since 2008," Klimakowski said. "People are trying to survive, just to stay level."
Though Klimakowski offered the aforementioned potential factors for increasing crime rates, he cautioned that it is difficult to trace the increases to a particular cause.
"We can speculate to a lot of different things," he said. "I don't want to point the finger and say it was just because we were short on manpower or that the economy is bad, but I do think that they play into the big picture."
Crime in Manchester
and Neighboring Towns in 2010 (per 1,000 residents): Violent Crime Rates in Manchester
and Neighboring Towns in 2010 (per 1,000 residents):
- Seaside Heights - 90
- Toms River - 29
- Lavallette - 26
- South Toms River - 24
- Brick - 17
- Berkeley - 16
- Lakewood - 14
- Jackson - 13
- Manchester - 11
- Island Heights - 7
- Seaside Heights - 14
- South Toms River - 2.4
- Lakewood - 1.6
- Brick - 1.3
- Lavallette - 1.1
- Toms River - 1
- Berkeley - 0.9
- Jackson - 0.8
- Manchester - 0.6
- Island Heights - 0.5
With additional reporting from Charlie LaPlaca.