An increase in violent crime in 2020 mirrors a national trend, said Chief Darren McConnell. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge.)


Red Bank’s crime rates continued a long trend of gradual decline in 2020, police Chief Darren McConnell tells redbankgreen.

One glaring exception: an increase in reported rapes.

red bank darren mcconnellPolice Chief Darren McConnell, seen here in January, 2020. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge.)

Sexual assault cases in the borough rose to 11, from 4 in 2019, the Uniform Crime Reporting data for 2020 show.

“That is the most noteworthy piece” of the annual report, McConnell told redbankgreen by email Thursday.

“Most of those cases were child abuse-type incidents,” he said. “A couple of defendants were charged; most of the remaining cases are pending direct presentment to grand juries, but due to COVID there is a backlog at that step.”

Aggravated assault totals also rose, to 14, from 5 in 2019.

Otherwise, the data show no homicides for the second consecutive year, after one in 2018. Assaults, robberies and thefts declined.

The general decline “is a trend that’s been going on almost since I got here 30-something years ago,” McConnell told the borough council at its workshop meeting Wednesday night.

Last  year’s increase in violent crimes “seems to be a national issue,” McConnell said. The uptick “is an anomaly, but it’s a nationwide anomaly, not isolated to Red Bank.”

Separately, McConnell told redbankgreen that the department recorded 20 use-of-force incidents in 2020, up from 18 in 2019, when they dipped to an all-time low.

Under a 2001 order of the New Jersey Attorney General, police departments are required to complete use-of-force reports any time physical force is used in an arrest. The term encompasses everything from a cop firmly grabbing a subject’s wrist to a tussle that ends up with one or more people on the ground. (See definitions of the types of force here.)

Nineteen of the 20 incidents involved compliance holds or takedowns, “which is the lowest level of force. One incident the officer utilized a chemical/natural agent (pepper spray),” McConnell said.

Each incident was reviewed  by department brass, and for the seventh consecutive year, all were “found to be appropriate,” he said. No excessive-force complaints were filed by the public against borough police, McConnell said.

In January, borough police answered about 1,300 calls for service, “everything from the most serious of crimes to a false alarm at a business to a motor vehicle accident,” McConnell told the council, in response to questions by Councilman Michael Ballard.

The department responds to an average of 1,600 to 1,800 calls per month, but that figure typically drops in January, he said. This year, the activity was further dampened by  the COVID-19 pandemic “and the fact that the bars are closing earlier, although that’s been reversed as of this coming Friday,” he said, in reference to Governor Phil Murphy’s recission this week of an executive order mandating a 10 p.m. closing.

In contrast to some other towns, Red Bank officers are required to file reports on “every single call, even if it’s a dog running loose,” McConnell said.

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