Report about safe NJ cities highlights bigger issues

AP Photo/Seth Wenig

Everyone loves the FBI Uniform Crime Reporting statistics. When they roll out every year we all jump on them and start postulating about crime proliferation throughout the country. A recent report was released by SafeWise, an online safety consulting website, and there were some interesting things brought up. The report, “New Jersey’s 50 Safest Cities of 2022”, drew its data from the FBI statistics, according to the Patch (and more on their sources later).

The post opens up with perception versus what they “boast”. 

New Jersey boasts some of the lowest crime rates in the country, but New Jersey residents express the sixth-highest level of concern about their safety. This report highlights the cities in the state that report the fewest crimes, and explores the contradiction in New Jersey’s perception of safety versus how safe the state really is.

I found the phraseology used to be notable. “New Jersey boasts some of the lowest crime rates…” Well, NJ, as a state, or from our so-called leadership can boast all they want, but that does not change the reality that NJ has some of the most violent crime and cities in the country. 

Looking at the “State of Safety in America” report, which the NJ report references, New Jersey ranks 8th in the “worried about safety on a daily basis” department, with 58% of the population meeting that rubric. There’s a reason for that, crime.

What really caught my attention were two things. The section on firearms and section of personal preference for self-defense weapons.

Attitudes about gun violence in New Jersey

  • 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.

I want to know who these 9% are that are using a concealed carry firearm for self-defense. Because, as we should all know, concealed carry permits are not issued to the unwashed masses in New Jersey. The report did not differentiate if that “use” was criminal or within the confines of New Jersey’s draconian law.

The report notes that there was a 17% increase in so-called mass shooting incidents. This triggered me a little, because reading the original Patch reporting, they cited the FBI as the source of the report’s statistics. The FBI does not report on “mass shootings”, however they do report on active shooter incidents. This caused me to see where else the report was drawing their information from. The report leaned on this source, among others, which in my opinion should mire the entire study:

Gun Violence Archive, “Past Summary Ledgers,” Accessed January 24, 2022.
Gun Violence Archive, “General Methodology,” Accessed March 8, 2022.

The Gun Violence Archive (GVA) should not under any circumstances be cited in any study or report that wishes to be reputable in my opinion. The GVA is made up of “statistics” based on news reports, not actual crime statistics. Their “data” is not verified. If SafeWise wants to be taken seriously and be deemed trustworthy by those in the know, they absolutely need to never use GVA for their reporting.

Several journalists and content creators, myself included, that report on the Second Amendment, are of the opinion that the GVA is not trustworthy for any type of official reporting. The FBI statistics and GVA “statistics” do not go hand in hand or play nice. As noted, the FBI has no “mass shooting” designation. The truth be told, the FBI active shooter statistics are not as sexy to the fear-mongering MSM or those who wish to push an agenda, in comparison to the GVA’s very inflated and convoluted “statistics”.

In the SafeWise page outlining where and how they get their data, the first paragraph states they use the FBI’s data.

We use FBI crime statistics data to rank cities in each state and across the country. To add extra insight and depth to that assessment, we include demographic information and the results of our proprietary State of Safety research study.

However, if you scroll all the way down towards the end, there’s an “endnote” section that has the following notation:

Gun violence

SafeWise uses data from the Gun Violence Archive (GVA) to track gun violence incidents. We also adhere to the GVA definitions for mass shootings and officer-involved incidents.

Mass shooting definition: “If four or more people are shot or killed in a single incident, not involving the shooter, that incident is categorized as a mass shooting based purely on that numerical threshold.”

All GVA data is current as of the date last accessed. The GVA regularly changes and updates its data as incidents are examined for accuracy.

Why would SafeWise not use the FBI statistics on a similar subject? Why not use the FBI’s definitions for active shooter events? These are important questions that, in my opinion, should call into question their motives and level of academic integrity. Granted, the FBI’s data on active shooters is much more difficult to navigate, but why not put the work in? Probably because of the disparity in the numbers reported. Not enough “fear” to instill in what the FBI has to say about these events.

A more comprehensive study on the GVA was done by my colleague Lee Williams, and he chronicled what he learned in some articles that are worth exploring:

Special Report: The Gun Violence Archive And Its Scaring Of America (armedamericannews.org)

Huh? CNN claims there have been 641 mass shootings this year — almost two per day (substack.com)

In spite of New Jersey’s alleged “strong” and “good” gun laws that the commie mommies and their ilk slaute, people are yet fearful of violence committed by firearms. The fear mentioned and reality of 9% of persons stating they’ve experienced so-called gun violence, highlights the abject failures of New Jersey’s laws. How can a state with so many restrictions on firearms still have this kind of issue? Since the late 60’s (or ever) we have not seen these laws working, so piling on more clearly won’t as well.

When comparing “fear vs. reality”, how do New Jersey residents stack up?

  • 35% of survey participants report using some form of personal protection—slightly higher than the US average (34%).
  • Pepper spray is the most common form of personal protection used. Keychain weapons are the second most popular type of self-defense device, which is unusual compared to other states.
  • 55% of New Jerseyites say their personal safety has been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic compared to 44% of Americans—only 3 states reported higher numbers.

I found the statistic that an above average number of people use some sort of personal protection in the Garden State versus other states intriguing. What about those disproportionate numbers of people welding keychain weapons, and using pepper spray as their number one go to? That’s because in New Jersey, the only defensive weapon noted in the law that everyday people (the peasants) can use for self-defense outside of the home or businesses they own, is ¾’s of an ounce of pepper spray. That’s it.

I reached out to prominent firearm attorney Evan Nappen for his take on this reporting. Nappen is the author of several books on gun law, one on knife law that covers said laws throughout the country, and hosts the Gun Lawyer Podcast. He knows weapons and weapons law, and told me:

The reason so much pepper spray is carried in New Jersey, is because it’s virtually impossible to get a handgun carry permit. Criminals know that New Jerseyans are soft targets who can’t fight back, so there’s more crime victims. Jersey’s gun laws protect the criminals and endanger the public.

Even the subject of electronic weapons is hotly debated in New Jersey because there’s a court opinion stating that citizens can carry electronic weapons however there’s potentially room in the law where someone could get in trouble. This is not being brought up to be a matter of debate here, just that the New Jersey legislature and executive branches are so hubris that even after a court order, they did not move to have the statutes updated to reflect the legality of electronic weapons and their possession in all areas of the law.

What’s this report tell us?

One takeaway is that regardless of strict laws, New Jersey has a crime problem, and the citizens there perceive there to be a crime problem as well. With those in New Jersey being left defenseless with less than an ounce of pepper spray to legally defend themselves, they should feel vulnerable.

The final thing to point out, perhaps most importantly to all the readers, is that we should all check the citations to see where “data” is coming from. Again, I thought this was based off of the FBI statistics, and had I not known from my own research that “mass shooting” is not a phrase the FBI uses, I could have very well just taken this reporting as gospel. Some of the unassuming and unsuspecting readers of Patch or the report directly, may have assumed all the information came from a reputable governmental source.