Tuesday, September 16th, 2014
Half-True
Lonegan
Says under Mayor Cory Booker, Newark has seen "violent crime up five years in a row, murder up five years in a row."

Steve Lonegan on Thursday, August 15th, 2013 in a radio interview on “Focal Point with Bryan Fischer”

Cory Booker has overseen “five years in a row” of increases in violent crime, murders in Newark, Steve Lonegan claims

Republican U.S. Senate candidate Steve Lonegan discusses Newark crime statistics during this Aug. 15 interview on "Focal Point with Bryan Fischer." Go to 9:30 to hear his comments.

High unemployment, a dropout rate forcing students into a life of crime and poverty, and an annual increase in violent crime, including murders, for five consecutive years.

That picture, according to Republican U.S. Senate candidate Steve Lonegan, reflects Newark under the leadership of Democratic Mayor Cory Booker.

As Lonegan competes with Booker to fill the U.S. Senate seat previously held by the late Frank Lautenberg, the former Bogota mayor made those claims during an Aug. 15 radio interview on "Focal Point with Bryan Fischer," a program of the American Family Association.

"He’s had violent crime up five years in a row, murder up five years in a row. This is what he’s done to Newark," Lonegan said. "So he’s done using Newark as a stepping stone. Now he wants to go to Washington, D.C. and do exactly the same thing to the country."

While Lonegan is correct that Newark has seen an increase in overall violent crime over the course of Booker’s tenure, his statement is inaccurate and misleading, according to crime statistics compiled through the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Program.

Lonegan is wrong to say violent crime and murders have increased "five years in a row," since there were decreases in some of those years. In addition, the numbers in three of the four violent crime categories in 2012 were below their levels from 2007, Booker’s first full year in office.

Lonegan spokesman Will Gattenby said the candidate was trying to make the point that violent crime in Newark has increased significantly since 2007. Booker took office in July 2006.

"The number of violent crimes per year has increased during Cory Booker’s tenure," Gattenby said in an e-mail.

The UCR program also includes data on overall property crime -- which has dropped since the start of Booker’s tenure -- but this fact-check is focused on violent crime, since that was the subject of Lonegan’s claim.

Under the UCR program, violent crime is defined to include murders, forcible rapes, robberies and aggravated assaults. Over the past five years, each category has seen a mix of yearly decreases and increases.

To analyze Lonegan’s statement, PolitiFact New Jersey reviewed UCR statistics for Newark for 2007 through 2012. The 2012 figures, reported by the Newark Police Department, are preliminary.

While Lonegan said there have been increases for "five years in a row," overall violent crime only increased annually in three of the five years between 2008 and 2012. Murders increased in four of the years.

Overall violent crime dropped in 2009 and 2012, compared to the preceding years.

Murders have increased every year since 2009, but in 2008, there was a nearly 36 percent drop to 67 murders from 104 in 2007. In recent years, the number of murders has increased minimally, going from 90 in 2010 to 95 in 2012.

Between 2007 and 2012, overall violent crime in Newark increased from 2,415 offenses in 2007 to 3,219 last year, marking an increase of about 33 percent.

But that increase was driven by only one of the four violent crime categories. In 2012, the only category higher than its respective 2007 figure was robberies.

There were 1,976 robberies last year, marking a nearly 79 percent increase over the 1,104 in 2007.

By comparison, the 95 murders in 2012 were almost 9 percent less than the 104 murders in 2007. In fact, since 2008, the number of yearly murders in Newark has never exceeded the 2007 level.

In 2012, the numbers of forcible rapes and aggravated assaults were down from their 2007 levels by about 8 percent and roughly 4.7 percent, respectively.

In a statement, Kevin Griffis, a spokesman for the Booker campaign, said in part: "Mr. Lonegan is again using statistics misleadingly. Crime is down in Newark since Cory Booker took office."

Our ruling

In a radio interview, Lonegan claimed that under Booker, Newark has seen "violent crime up five years in a row, murder up five years in a row."

That statement is accurate in the sense that overall violent crime has increased over the past five years. But violent crime and murders have not gone up "five years in a row," since there were decreases in some years.

Also, the increase in overall violent crime between 2007 and 2012 stems solely from a rise in robberies. The other violent crime categories in 2012, including murders, were below their 2007 levels.

We rate the statement Half True.

To comment on this ruling, go to NJ.com.

Editor's note: This story has been updated to clarify that overall violent crime has not increased in every year of Booker's tenure. During the five years cited by Lonegan, overall violent crime increased in three of those years.  But overall violent crime was higher in 2012 than it was in 2007, Booker's first full year in office.