Pemberton Township’s arrest rates are lowest in the county
By Sharon Lurye.Published October4,2014 in the BurlingtonCountyTimes.
PEMBERTON TOWNSHIP — The question ofwhether the police departmentis understaffed has become a hot
button issue in Pemberton,as mayoral candidate Richard Pricketthas made beefing up the police force a major
talking pointin his campaign.
But one statistic puts the issue in a stark new light: Pemberton’s clearance rate,which shows how manypeople are
arrested for each crime that’s reported,has been falling since 2010.
In 2013, for every 100 index crimes thatwere reported in Pemberton,only seven were cleared.
This statistic comes from the data that police mustsubmitevery year to the New Jersey State Police for their annual
Uniform Crime Report.A crime is considered “cleared” when someone is arrested,or when the police are prepared to
make an arrest but cannot do it for reasons beyond their control — for example,the suspectis being tried in another
Index crimes fall into seven categories:murder,rape,robbery, aggravated assault,burglary,larceny or auto theft.
Pemberton’s clearance rate is the lowestfor any police departmentin Burlington County.According to the 2012
Uniform Crime Report,Burlington County’s overall clearance rate was 21 percent for index crimes,while Pemberton’s
rate lagged behind thatyear at 7.4 percent.
Many residents expressed shock atthe rate.
“I see the cops every day, all day, so stuff should be found out,” said John Jefferson,37. “That scares me.”
“That does surprise me,” said Chuck,73,who declined to give his lastname.“I guess people reallyaren’ttalking.
That’s what it takes to get it. You need somebodyto give you input, because ifthere’s no input… you’re not going to
Police ChiefDavid Jantas admitted that understaffing is an issue with the department,as itis with many police
“I will say that except for this year, the staffing in our Investigative Services Division (detectives) has been stable,” he
said.“In 2014,we had one detective mobilized by the military, one on medical leave and two that have recently
retired. Along with these issues we have had an extraordinary amountof officers not available for duty for various
reasons.We have been working to bring our staffing levels up.”
The departmenthas hired five new police officers this year, four of whom are in the police academy.
Rightnow the departmenthas 50 officers assigned,butonly 45 are available for duty. Jantas declined to go into the
Out of those 45 cops,33 are sergeants or officers who are available for patrol, in a town that’s more than 60 square
“We have police so spread outon the shifts that they cannotgive themselves backup in a hurry because they’re
somewhere else,” said Fred Moorhead,a Republican who’s running for council.“The territory is enormous,
comparativelyspeaking,and the cops are few.”
By ordinance,the departmentis authorized to have as many as 57 officers.
“It’s appalling thatwe don’thave what we need and that we’re not funding whatwe need as well,” said Prickett, the
Republican mayoral candidate running againstincumbentDemocratDavid Patriarca.He said that the department’s
staff needs to be broughtup to 57.
Additional officers mean more funding would be needed for salaryand benefits,leaving officials to determine how to
pay for any increase in force.
“It’s a matter of priorities — you need to look within the budgetto see where the moneyis,” Prickett said.He said that
he would be willing to cut out “unnecessaryspending.”
“I think having a fully-staffed police departmenthas to be a priority,” said Prickett.
Moorhead criticized Patriarca for not doing more.
“He used to be a police officer and he couldn’tsee this coming? He couldn’thire enough police?” he said about
Patriarca, who was a cop for 26 years.
Moorhead promised that,if elected, “within four years we will fully staff the police department.”
Patriarca pointed out that it’s very easyto score political points bymaking those kinds ofpromises,butactually doing
it is harder.
“My opponents are promoting fullystaffing the police department,and that’s certainlya goal, but that has to be looked
at, ‘At what expense?’ ” he said.“Because something is going to have to go. You can’t bring on an extra half a million
dollars in expense and salaries withoutpushing the cap limitto the max or exceeding the cap limit.”
Pemberton spent$4,841,615 on police salaries and wages in 2012 and $4,922,681 in 2013,according to the town
Patriarca said that the police departmenthas been trying to hire more officers every year since he has been in office.
However, the departmentis bound by a civil service rule called “The Rule of 3.”
Candidates take a law enforcementexam and are ranked based on their testscores.A police departmentcan only
hire someone who is ranked in the top three spots in the hiring list.
If the departmentwants to hire someone who is lower on the list, they have to wait. A person can move up on the list
when someone from the top three spots is hired.
Patriarca said there have been times when the police chiefwas not satis fied with anyone in the top three and
preferred to wait until next year.
“It’s such a sensitive position thatyou don’t wantto bring somebodyon justto fill a spot.A warm body is not the
answer,” said Patriarca.“But it’s not for not trying. We’ve tried to bring people on and sometimes itdoesn’twork with
The mayor also said thatthe low staff level may not be the reason for the low clearance rate.
“To say the staffing is the cause of the problem,I can’t say I totally agree with that,” he said.“More officers can
certainly help if they are applied correctly, but the investigation division has maintained its staffing numbers for quite
Patriarca added,“There’s nothing that indicated that we had a drastic spike in crime.... We’re not the crime-ridden
town that (is presented in the media).”
Indeed,since Patriarca arrived in office in 2011,the crime rate has gone down.
Pemberton had a rate of 31.7 index crimes per 1000 residents in 2011,and it had a rate of 27.5 index crimes per
1000 residents in 2013.(This rate was calculated based on Census data and statistics from the Uniform Crime
Reports,found at http://www.njsp.org/info/stats.html#ucr).
Pemberton has a population ofalmost28,000 people and had 767 indexcrimes reported lastyear, of which 54 ended
in an arrestor clearance.
However, the total crime rate doesn’ttell the whole story. While nonviolentcrimes like burglaries and thefts went
down,the violent crime rate increased.
There were 2.4 violent index crimes per 1000 residents in 2011,but3.1 in 2013.
There are many different variables that can affect a city’s clearance rate besides the size of the police force. One
importantfactor is whether residents are willing to work with police.
“There are some thatjustdon’t wish to get involved with the criminal justice system for fear of testifying (in court) as a
witness,” said Jantas.“There are also those who do not wantto be considered ‘snitches.’ We have even come across
this with some victims who do notwant to cooperate with us.”
He said thatpeople can leave anonymous tips atthe Confidential Tip Line at 609-894-3352,or send an anonymous
email from the department’s website,pembertonpolice.com.
Jefferson said thatmore communitymeetings mighthelp residents to feel more comfortable working with the cops.
“No one knows the police,” he said.“We don’t speak or anything. (We’re) two differentworlds.”
Paul Davenport, 34, said that he sees police officers often butdoes not interactwith them. “I justsee them in their car
on their cellphone,” he said.The arrestrate could be improved by police “getting out of their cars and putting their
phones down,” he said.
Local residentAmanda,20,who declined to give her lastname,said she wasn’tsurprised thatthe clearance ra te is
so low, because there’s justtoo much crime.
“I don’tthink they can stop it. There’s too much,you know whatI mean? There’s justtoo much violence,too many
crazies running around,” she said.
Still, she thinks that hiring more police officers would definitelyhelp.
“My uncle’s a cop, so I know Pemberton Township doesn’thave enough police,” she said.“They can’t be everywhere
at once. That’s all they need to do, justhire more cops.Justgotta win the lottery firstso they can afford it.”