With the exception of rape, all crimes in New Jersey saw a rate drop in 2014, according to the state’s Uniformed Crime Reporting unit.
Murders were down 14.5 percent to 343; robberies dropped 15.4 percent to 10,230; assaults were down 9.7 percent to 10,912; burglaries were off 13.6 percent to 30,913; thefts were down 8.2 percent to 108,338; and motor vehicle thefts dropped 16.5 percent to 11,442.
The only exception to this trend was rape. Reported rapes were up 6.3 percent to 879 and attempted rapes were up 23.4 percent to 58.
Most New Jerseyans -- 63 percent -- support legalization of assisted suicide, according to the most recent Rutgers-Eagleton poll, with only 29 percent saying they are opposed.
A bill in the Legislature, already approved by the state Assembly and awaiting a vote in the state Senate would allow terminally ill patients to obtain prescription drugs to end their lives.
Support for the “Aid in Dying” bill is strong among Republicans (58 percent) and Democrats and independents (64 percent). And although backing for the bill crosses religious denominations, the more often you attend services the less likely you are to support the bill. Sixty percent or more of Catholics, Protestants, and Jews say they would support the idea, although only 52 percent of evangelical Christians support it. The most devout are the strongest opponents: half of residents who attend religious services at least weekly oppose the bill, while 40 percent support it.
A 62-year-old Plainsboro man has been indicted on charges that he fraudulently collected $243,000 in Social Security benefits for his father for
29 years after the father died.
The father had worked a second job using a false name and a second Social Security number he obtained in that name. After his father died, the son continued to collect benefits paid in connection with that false identity, for which no death was reported.
Nicholas Severino Jr.’s father, who died in 1984, was collecting Social Security benefits under the name Frank DiCarlo for working a second job. Severino Sr. set up a joint bank account under that name as well as that of his son before he died. Because there was no record of DiCarlo’s death, a total of $243,844 was deposited in the account for 29 years -- an average of $700 a month.
The fraud was discovered when the Social Security Administration attempted to contact DiCarlo at his last known address in Camden, under its Centenarian Project, in which the SSA routinely reaches out to those who would have reached the age of 100 to verify they are still living. Benefits were suspended when DiCarlo could not be found but Severino’s address was on the joint bank account.
Although most (63 percent) New Jerseyans believe Atlantic City’s best days are behind it, 57 percent said they agreed with last month’s state appointment of an emergency management team to assist in solving the city’s financial issues, according to the most recent Rutgers-Eagleton poll.
Thirty-five percent think Atlantic City should be left to handle these issues on its own.
A solid majority agreed with the idea, regardless of party affiliation, race, gender, or age. South Jerseyans (68 percent), urban (63 percent), and shore residents (62 percent), however, were more likely to support the state’s involvement than were suburban residents (51 percent.)
NJ Transit handled 267 million rides on the state’s system of buses, rail, and light rail in 2014.
That represented a 7 percent increase in rail ridership over 2013 -- to 84 million -- but a relatively flat number of bus riders at 161 million. The number of light-rail riders increased by almost 5 percent to 22 million.
By far the largest number of system riders come from the north and central areas of New Jersey. Bus riders are pretty much split between north (69.6 million) and central Jersey (68.3 million). The southern division only had 23 million rides.
As for rail ridership, there were 52 million rides through the Newark division and 31 million through Hoboken. Only 1 million rides went through Atlantic City.
Light-rail ridership followed a similar pattern, with 13.8 million rides on the Hudson-Bergen line; 5.3 million through Newark; and only 2.9 million on South Jersey’s River Line.
Things are not going so well in New Jersey, according to the most recent State of American Wellbeing index of the 2014 Gallup-Healthways Index report. New Jersey ranked only 34th of 50 states in terms of wellbeing, which takes into account how people feel about their life’s purpose, social and financial life, physical health, and community.
Among these metrics, New Jersey ranked highest (20) when it came to physical health. Social wellbeing, which was defined as having supportive relationships and love in your life, was pegged at 23, slightly better than half the states.
However, when it came to financial wellbeing -- traditionally an area in which New Jersey excels -- the state’s residents only ranked 29th. Financial wellbeing in this case was defined as managing your economic life to reduce stress and increase security.
The two areas in which New Jersey severely underperformed the rest of the country were purpose and community.
Purpose was defined as liking what you do each day and being motivated to achieve goals. In this area New Jersey only ranked 43rd. And New Jersey’s leaders should take serious note of the ranking of 48 for community. This element was defined as liking where you live, feeling safe, and taking pride in your community.
The index was based on 176,702 interviews with people across the country last year.
The state attorney general’s office Division of Law earned a 14 percent increase in the amount it recouped in judgments and litigation settlements last year, totaling $346 million.
The largest settlement was with the Occidental Chemical Corp. for $190 million to resolve liability for past cleanup and removal costs for damages related to contamination of the Passaic River. (Altogether, the state has recovered $355.5 million from three Passaic River litigations, the previous two in 2013.) Occidental is the legal successor to the Diamond Shamrock Chemicals Co.
The AG’s office also touted a $1.8 million settlement against eight auto dealerships and their two owners for deceptive sales tactics, including failure to disclose mechanical defects or past damage to used cars. The eight dealerships include Route 22 Toyota, Route 22 Honda, Route 22 Nissan, and Route 22 Kia -- all of Hillside.
There were also a number of multi-settlements, including a $2.45 million settlement against GlaxoSmithKline for promoting its asthma drug Advair and antidepressants Paxil and Wellbutrin for unapproved uses in violation of consumer protection laws.
A more complete list is located on the Division of Law’s website.
Two years ago, ProPublica analyzed U.S. Department of Education data from across the country looking to see how large school systems and states compare when it comes to offering opportunities to a broad economic spectrum of the population. Although New Jersey fared comparatively well, one statistic stood out: only 14 percent of students in New Jersey took at least one Advanced Placement course. The data was limited to the 135 districts in the state with more than 3,000 students. An interactive data feature makes it possible to look at each of these districts.
Of those who took an AP course, 62 percent passed -- higher than the national average.
Most other indicators in what ProPublica called the “opportunity gap” were either slightly above or at the national average: 16 percent of students take advanced math; 12 percent are in a gifted and talented program; 20 percent take chemistry; and 9 percent take physics.
One final statistic jumped out as high above the national average: sports participation in New Jersey is 52 percent.
A large majority of New Jersey voters -- 63 percent -- say that Hillary Clinton would make a good president; 83 percent of voters say she has the right “experience” compared with other Democratic contenders; and 80 percent of New Jersey voters believe Americans are ready for a woman in the Oval Office. (All the stats are from the most recent Rutgers Eagleton poll released today.)
By a wide margin, Clinton is favored over potential Republican opponents by New Jersey voters. She beats Gov. Chris Christie 58 percent to 35 percent; former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush 58 percent to 32 percent; and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker 60 percent to 29 percent.
What’s more, Clinton’s favorability ratings are 59 percent in New Jersey. That’s higher than President Barack Obama’s 53 percent, and significantly higher than Christie (37 percent), Jeb Bush (26 percent), and Walker (16 percent.)
One more factor in the race is that 58 percent of women say they personally hope a women will be elected in their lifetime. (Only 42 percent of men said that was their hope.)
Gov. Chris Christie’s ratings with New Jersey voters have hit an all-time low, with just 37 percent of registered voters saying they feel favorably toward him while 53 percent feel unfavorably, according to the latest Rutgers-Eagleton poll. This is a seven-point drop in two months.
His overall job approval is also negative: 52 percent disapprove and only 42 percent approve.
The survey also asked respondents to indicate what has been the biggest cause for this decline. His overall attitude, behavior, and personality were cited by 20 percent; 15 percent mentioned the George Washington Bridge scandal. His presidential ambitions and lack of attention to his current office were cited by 10 percent.
According to the poll, independent voters -- who long supported him -- are now squarely against Christie, with favorable impressions falling a record-breaking 16 points since December, down to 31 percent. Meanwhile, the share of independent voters with an unfavorable impression grew to 55 percent.
David Redlawsk, director of the Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling, said that Christie’s drop in the polls is larger than in the aftermath of Bridgegate.
New Jersey saw the greatest rise in the nation this year -- 13 percent -- in the number of children enrolled in the federally funded School Breakfast Program, with a total participation of 226,924, according to the Food Research and Action Council.
The number of schools that offer the program is 2,008, as opposed to the 2,635 that offer federally funded school lunch programs. Although more schools are offering breakfast than in the past, Advocates for Children of New Jersey also credited the rise to convincing schools that they needed to change the way they serve breakfast.
ACNJ advocates “breakfast after the bell,” in which breakfast is served from grab-and-go carts and is consumed in the first few minutes of classroom time. Low-income children are not the only ones who consume breakfast in school that way. If a school does offer the program, families who do need meet the income guidelines can pay for it. About 15 percent of the total 266,451 get breakfast that way.
Although FRAC applauded New Jersey’s gains this year, it noted that about 300,000 low-income children could benefit from the program but do not.
Almost everyone knows why you would dial 911 or 411 -- and in New Jersey, many people are even familiar with 311, the information line that helps you navigate New York City. But 211? Well, apparently quite a few people -- 420,000 in 2014 -- know that this will help you get assistance from the state Department of Health and Human Services, or nonprofit agencies.
Launched by the United Ways of New Jersey 10 years ago, NJ 211, which can be reached by phone or by visiting nj211.org, has a comprehensive database of over 4,000 health and human service providers who offer nearly 15,000 programs at 12 locations in the state.
When called, a trained referral specialist helps the caller navigate these systems to get the help they need. Callers are often looking to find the closest food bank, get tax assistance, get information about state and federal programs like SNAP and LIHEAP, or find affordable housing and job training.
The 211 system is a free program and today, February 11 (2-11, get it?) is its recognition day.
New Jersey ranked smack in the middle of the pack in a recent Wallet Hub survey that looked at what states are the best and worst when it comes to controlling bullying.
According to the study, more than 160,000 children in the country miss school each day out of fear of being bullied and only 40 percent of adults step in when they see an act of bullying. What’s more, the average public school can incur more than $2.3 million in lost funding and expenses as a result of suspensions, expulsions, vandalism, and low attendance due to bullying.
To come up with the ranking, the survey of experts looked at issues such as the cost of bullying (which takes into account how much districts spend on students who are truant), the prevalence of bullying, and the impact of bullying. That was determined by the rate of truancy due to the problem, as well as suicides, depression, and number of laws.
New Jersey did slightly better in terms of overall ranking than it did in terms of “environmental impact,” but that could be due to the high cost of living in the state. However, its lowest mark was when it came to truancy -- again, cost was included. New Jersey ranked 40th. Not all states participated in the survey.
There are 40,993 lawyers in the Garden State, according to the American Bar Association, and their numbers grow every year. Despite that, the employment rate for recent law school graduates has fallen six years in a row. So it's logical to think that supply is outstripping demand.
That’s not necessarily so. Four in 10 Middle Americans can’t afford a lawyer to help them solve their legal problems. This trend is known as the ever-widening “justice gap.”
As part of a national initiative to address this problem, the New Jersey State Bar Association has created a Blue Ribbon Commission on Unmet Legal Needs, to be cochaired by retired state Supreme Court Justice Virginia A. Long and former state Supreme Court Justice Helen E. Hoens. The commission will look at a variety of programs, such as initiatives at law schools, law firms, bar associations, the judiciary, and nonprofits.
Overtime costs have been skyrocketing in New Jersey’s county jails, according to a new report by the state comptroller, totaling $185.7 million between 2010 and 2012.
Five facilities -- those in Cumberland, Mercer, Middlesex, Ocean, and Salem counties -- spent at least 20 percent of their total corrections officer compensation on overtime. The counties with the lowest percentage of overtime were Cape May, Warren, and Bergen, all of which had less than 5 percent of their compensation costs devoted to overtime.
Indeed, Salem, Mercer, Cumberland, Hunterdon, Middlesex, and Ocean all spent more than 15 percent of their overall expenditures on overtime. Even some of the counties that were not racking up high overtime costs were paying corrections officers in the high range. The average Bergen County corrections officer earns approximately $102,000, of which more than $5,000 was for overtime. In Union County, corrections officers earned an average of $90,000, of which more than $18,000 was overtime.
The comptroller listed the cause of the problems to be a lack of administrative and fiscal oversight; poor staffing planning and leave policies; inadequate use of technology to schedule and assign overtime; and insistence on attendance at a training academy rather than on-the-job training to fill positions.
Gov. Chris Christie hasn’t had a good month -- just look at the latest Monmouth University poll.
Not only have Christie's approval ratings dropped again -- among registered voters, 51 percent said they did not approve of the job he’s doing while 47 percent said they did. But the biggest blow might be the fact that while 46 percent of Republicans said they thought Christie would make a better president, 37 percent chose Jeb Bush. (Democrats and Independents were evenly split.)
That won’t matter in a general election, since Hillary Clinton is favored over Christie by a mile (57 vs. 32 percent of registered voters). But New Jersey is generally considered a blue state in federal elections, so as Patrick Murray, director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute noted, that’s not a big surprise.
But Christie’s favorability ratings are dropping (42 percent unfavorable vs. 39 percent favorable among registered voters). And voters now believe he is more concerned with his own political future than he is with New Jersey (67 percent vs. 27 percent).
Although New Jersey’s legal drinking age is 21, 23 percent of those between the ages of 12 and 20 said they have had an alcoholic drink in the past month, according to a national survey in 2012-2013 by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, an agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
More worrisome, 15 percent said they’ve had at least one episode of binge drinking, defined as at least 5 drinks or more in one sitting.
Having said that, these statistics match or are below national averages (24 percent have had a drink, 15 percent have gone on a binge). This is despite the fact that the Northeast has the highest rate of drinking in the country and is second only to the Midwest in terms of binge drinking, according to the SAMSHA surveys.
Overall, 55 percent of New Jerseyans said they have had a drink in the past month and 22 percent said they recently had an episode of binge drinking. For those between the ages of 12 and 17, the rate of binge drinking was 7.2 percent, although 13.64 percent in high school and middle school said they had used alcohol in the past month.
A lot of people die on New Jersey’s roads. It’s the day after Groundhog Day, yet already there have been 40 fatalities from 38 fatal car crashes on the state’s roads. What’s more, that’s fairly typical for this time of year. Last year at this time, there were already 44 deaths.
The causes are many. On Super Bowl Sunday, a snowy night on which people drink and drive, the NJ State Police tweeted after the game that in their patrolled areas there had been 112 crashes and 117 aids by morning. There was no mention if any of these crashes were fatal.
And for those that think most people who die in car crashes are sitting in the death seat, think again. The majority of those who have died are drivers (22), with most (16) over the age of 40. It’s unknown if they had passengers with them but only six of all fatalities last month were passengers.
Pedestrians, however, are clearly in danger. Twelve of the deaths were pedestrians, the largest cohort of which were between the ages of 50 and 64.
As we experience the worst of winter’s cold and snow, many people find comfort knowing they have home generators to keep the lights on and their home warm. But it’s important to note that home generators are not without their risks. In 2013, 630 people were treated for unintentional carbon monoxide poisoning in emergency rooms throughout the state -- a not uncommon occurrence with the use of gas generators.
Of those 630 people, 44 were hospitalized. The year before, 19 New Jersey residents died from carbon monoxide poisoning.
What makes carbon monoxide particularly dangerous is that it's invisible and odorless. Exposure to low levels of CO can cause headaches, fatigue, and irritability, according to the state health department. At higher levels, it can cause nausea, vomiting, disorientation, irregular heartbeat, impaired vision, and death.
The state Health Department has issued a comprehensive list of tips for using generators. They include: Don’t run them in a basement, garage, or enclosed space. Never position them too close to windows or doors. Use battery-operated carbon-monoxide alarms. Always plug appliances directly into the generator, and ensure the generator is properly grounded.
Medications lose effectiveness in high temperatures, and the state made it clear that when that happens, drug retailers must protect the validity of their products by quarantining them in such a way that they remain within specific temperature guidelines. The state attorney general’s office fined CVS Pharmacy more than $500,000 this week for operating as normal during the summer of 2012 at two locations, despite being without air conditioning for more than 72 hours. The locations were in Scotch Plains and Clark.
No injuries and illnesses resulting from the outages were reported.
Nevertheless, Division of Consumer Affairs Acting Director Steve Lee said, “Consumers expect pharmacies to closely guard the integrity and quality of medications, infant formula and other items that are essential to the public health. Any deviation from this responsibility is unacceptable.”
In addition to the fine, CVS agreed to convert its New Jersey stores to web-accessible systems to monitor and report on temperatures, establish protocols to inspect merchandise, notify corporate headquarters about outages, change its New Jersey HVAC service provider, and assign new field leadership to the problem
It could be a lot worse. Even though the top 1 percent of earners in New Jersey have incomes 27 times that of the average worker, the inequality of income in other states seems to be much worse, according to the Economic Policy Institute, a Washington think tank.
Nationally, the rate is 29.8 and growing, causing economists to raise the alarm that this is one of the key problems facing America. And while New Jersey’s top earners may be pulling down 27 times that of the average Garden State resident, in Connecticut it is 51 times; New York, 48.4 times; Florida, 43.3; California, 34.9; Massachusetts, 34.5; and Texas 32.5.
Since New Jersey, despite its economic doldrums, still has the third- or fourth-highest income in the country, it must be assumed that economic inequality is not as terrible as other states because most people have somewhat high incomes.
EPI has cited a study from the University of California at Berkeley that says between 2009 and 2012, the top 1 percent of earners captured 95 percent of total income growth. In New Jersey, the top 1 percent captured 80.5 percent of income growth.
There’s a lot of talk that manufacturing has abandoned New Jersey and that its economic problems can be traced to that fact. While that is in large part true, in 2013 New Jersey employed 243,300 people in manufacturing, which translated into 6.2 percent of the state’s nonfarm workforce, according to the Economic Policy Institute, a nonpartisan think tank.
Nationally, the average state had an 8.8 percent manufacturing workforce, and states in the South and Midwest had the highest percentage of manufacturing workers (Indiana, with 16.8 percent and Wisconsin with 16.3 percent).
Here in New Jersey, the revenue generated from this sector was 8.5 percent of the state Gross Domestic Product, at $45.9 billion. The largest sector within the manufacturing sector is the chemical industry -- which includes not just chemicals but also pharmaceuticals. That accounted for 26 percent of the manufacturing jobs in the state.
Our neighboring states tell two different stories. Pennsylvania had 9.8 percent of its jobs in manufacturing. New York had only 5.1 percent.
With predictions of a snowfall of up to 30 inches this week, it’s interesting to note that the Office of the New Jersey State Climatologist at Rutgers pegs the annual average mean precipitation at 45.30 inches. That rate has been climbing since 1971, with the mean precipitation rate between 1971 and 2000 being 47.20 inches. Since 2000, the rate has been 46.94 inches.
Snowfall and precipitation are not equivalent; precipitation is measured as melted snow. The largest precipitation on record prior to 1971 was 45.4 inches in 1904/1905.
Each smoker in New Jersey spends $1.38 million on cigarettes, at today’s prices, ranking the state among the highest in the country when it comes to cost per smoker, according to a recent study by Wallethub, a financial web site.
The total cost per New Jersey smoker is pegged at $1.87 million, when healthcare ($193,312), income loss due to health reasons ($286,922), and other costs are included.
Has New Jersey finally turned the corner with its economy? The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics released new job numbers for the month of December that showed a drop in the state’s unemployment rate to 6.2 percent -- 0.2 percent lower than in November. The unemployment rate still lags behind neighboring states New York and Pennsylvania, but it’s catching up.
Nationally, the unemployment rate is 5.6 percent.
The Christie administration is understandably pleased with the announcement, noting that the rate has dropped by 3.5 percentage points since the governor took office. It also says the labor-force participation rate (the total number of people in the workforce actively looking for work) remains higher than the national average.
New Jersey Policy Perspective, a liberal think tank, had a different take on the numbers. It said that the nation as a whole has restored 123 percent of the jobs it lost during the Great Recession; New York has rebounded with almost 200 percent of the jobs, and Pennsylvania has regained almost 100 percent of its jobs. New Jersey, however, has only regained 50 percent of its jobs, and the recovery continues to be slow. In the past year, according to NJPP, the state has only added 2,417 jobs per month. “At that rate, even Christmas 2019 looks unpromising,” said president Gordon MacInnes, in a written statement.
Are millionaires fleeing the state because of high taxes or are there fewer of them due to a dragging economy and poor real estate market? That may depend on your point of view after reading a report by Phoenix Marketing International, which showed that
232,514 households in New Jersey, or more than 7 percent, have investable assets of more than $1 million.
The state was ranked third in the country, behind Maryland and Connecticut and just ahead of Hawaii and Alaska, with the highest ratio of millionaires.
Assembly Republican leader Jon Bramnick (R-Morris, Somerset and Union) seized on the study to issue a statement that it proved “10,000 top earners” were fleeing the state. “For years, Republicans have said that raising taxes hurts job creation and our economy. Today’s report supports that claim.”
New Jersey’s number of millionaires did dip slightly this year but has remained fairly stable since 2011 when there were 231,456 millionaires. In 2010, the entire country was in the doldrums and the number was 212,396. At that time, New Jersey, as in 2014, was ranked third in the country in terms of wealthy residents.
For the second year in a row, Politico magazine has ranked states in terms of overall “strength” based on the idea that education, health, and wealth make a state strong, while crime, unemployment, and death do not. The Garden State came in No. 10, jumping up two spots from 12, presumably because the unemployment rate has vastly improved from 7.8 percent to this year’s 6.4 percent.
The ranking is based on a 1931 H.L. Mencken magazine series called the “Worst American State” and takes the ideas embodied in judging a state’s wellbeing and uses today’s data to conduct a ranking. (In 1931, New Jersey was ranked fourth by Mencken.)
New Jersey performs best when it comes to per capita income ($36,027) and eighth-grade reading and math scores. It also does well -- but not superlatively -- in the percent employed in computing, engineering, and science; percent living below the federal poverty level; and lack of obesity. And it’s got some work to do when it comes to percent of home ownership, life expectancy, high school graduates, violent crime rate, and income inequality.
Minnesota and New Hampshire were tied for first in this year’s rankings. Mississippi came in at the bottom as it did last year and also in 1931.
Only 25 percent of New Jersey’s teachers are involved in, enthusiastic about, and committed to their work, according to the Gallup Daily tracking survey of the teachers in the most populous U.S. states.
Engaged teachers know the scope of their jobs and look for new and better ways to achieve outcomes.
Indeed, New Jersey teachers seem to be pretty unhappy; 16 percent of them are considered “actively disengaged,” which Gallup defines as not only unhappy but also acting out their unhappiness in ways that undermine what their coworkers accomplish. New Jersey ranked second-highest for “actively disengaged” after Florida.
The third category that teachers were placed in, after being asked a variety of questions about the workplace, is “not engaged.” Gallup defined that category, in which the majority of New Jersey teachers fell, as possibly satisfied with their jobs but not emotionally connected to their work and unlikely to devote much discretionary effort to it.
Nationally, 31 percent of all U.S. teachers were identified as being engaged and 12 percent were actively disengaged.
Engagement is associated directly with outcomes, according to Gallup, including absenteeism and school leadership. Engaged teachers are more likely to produce engaged students with greater achievement.
Bald eagles are coming back to New Jersey. This winter, 25 new eagle pairs were found. And for the first time in 100 years, eagles are nesting along the Palisades Interstate Park.
The Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey reports that the statewide population of bald eagles increased to 156 pairs, and that a total of 146 nest sites were active with eggs.
Biologists from the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection’s Fish and Wildlife division track bald eagles with a telemetry system. Nests are also monitored, which showed that 115 of them produced 201 young eagles.
The Delaware Bay region is the state’s eagle stronghold, with 43 percent of all nests located in Cumberland and Salem counties. However, an
eagle cam is hosted at Duke Farms in Hillsborough and it’s expected the next incubation period will begin mid-February.