JACKSON, NJ – Jackson Township has been rated the safest community in New Jersey with a population of over 50,000 residents or more. Today, Mayor Michael Reina said his push to fund the police in a time when most major cities were pushing to defund police shows why Jackson is bucking a statewide violent crime trend that is also affecting most of America.
Reina said staffing levels in Jackson Township’s police department is credited to the department’s ability to keep the town safe. Still, he announced today that the administration has approved the hiring of six more officers.
According to a report published by Safewise, Jackson is ranked 31st overall among 564 municipalities in New Jersey, but first among those with 50,000 or more residents. New Jersey has over 20 cities with a population of 50,000 or more residents.
Jackson Township Police Chief Matthew Kunz today said he was unaware of the specific report by Safewise, but said the township is indeed a safe community and thanked the officers under him for their hard work and dedication to keeping the town safe.
“We have a great community and great staff and the kudos goes to the staff that does all the work, and the investigations day in and day out,” Kunz said.
According to Kunz and Reina, staffing within the township had dropped to a low of about 79 several years ago through attrition and retirement and the shared goal is to bring the force up to 114 officers in the near future.
The mayor and chief also said they are committed to hiring six new police officers in the near future and are in talks to hire more at some point.
Reina said that even though the political mood in New Jersey was leaning toward defunding the police and tying their hands, he feels Governor Phil Murphy is on the wrong path with law enforcement in the state.
“When others chose to defund, we choose to defend the police and stand alongside our officers,” Reina said. “We’re not going to play the games Phil Murphy and the Democrats are playing. Public safety is job number one. This is about keeping our community safe, not scoring political points.”
Reina said he had often criticized the Murphy administration for weakening the ability of New Jersey police officers to get their job done effectively, especially when it comes to the topic of stolen vehicles, an epidemic plaguing the state and country.
“These guys are not from Jackson. They come here and look for cars to take and if they do get caught, they’re back out doing it again soon after,” Reina said days after Governor Murphy’s own neighborhood was targeted by out-of-town car thieves.
Murphy today acknowledged for the first time that New Jersey has a car theft problem and urged residents to lock their car doors and keep their keys in the house, denying his soft on crime policies are fostering the increase in thefts.
Reina said as high-ranking police officers retire, the township is hiring two officers to backfill their vacancies where some officers with tenure were receiving as much as $160,000 per year in salary or more.
In recent years, the township has also provided the police department with modern technology and upgrades.
“We’re upgrading then entire fleet to four-wheel drive, which is better suited to their job here in Jackson with over 100 square miles, half of that being open space and woods,” Reina said. “They have a newer, more efficient and capable telecommunications system with state of the art and modern technology.”
Reina added that the plans are in the early stages to launch a K9 unit and rebuild the department’s motorcycle unit. The town has also received a federal grant through the CARES Act to upgrade the IT systems within the department, a project he says is long overdue.
“We’re making progress,” Reina said. “Jackson is a safe place to live work and play and we’re committed to giving our men and women in uniform all of the manpower, tools, and resources to keep it that way, despite the growing trend across the country in the other direction. “If we don’t support and protect them and give them what they need, then who will?”
The report showed gun violence is one of the main problems plaguing New Jersey, but Jackson had the lowest rate of gun violence among cities with 50,000 or more residents, according to the report, which utilized FBI Uniform Crime Reports (UCR).
According to the report:
- 67% of New Jersey residents named gun violence as a top safety concern—well above the US average of 53%.
- 9% of survey participants reported experiencing gun violence in the 12 months prior to the survey, a near-doubling from 5% last year.
- There was a 17% increase in mass shooting incidents year over year. New Jersey recorded 14 incidents in 2021, compared to 12 the year before.
- Firearms are the fourth most common form of property protection used (after security systems, security cameras, and guard animals), although the number of respondents using them increased by 63% year over year (from 8% to 13%).
- Use of concealed carry firearms for self defense also rose from 3% to 9% year over year.