A think-tank tries to assess ‘peace’ levels in N.J.

TRENTON – New Jersey has the highest number of police officers per capita in the country, a new report found.

TRENTON – New Jersey has the highest number of police officers per capita in the country, a new report found.

The first ever U.S. Peace Index, a report measuring a state’s level of peacefulness based on various quality-of-life factors, ranked New Jersey highest in the number of police officers per 100,000 residents.

The report was done by the Institute for Economics & Peace, an international think with offices in New York and Washington, D.C.

With New Jersey ranking tops in the number of police officers per capita, that drives down the level of peacefulness by IEP’s measure.

“If there is a lot of police, there’s a feeling there’s a lot of crime or a feeling of crime,” said Steve Killelea, executive chairman of IEP.

In other measures, New Jersey ranked well, such as the percentage of people in poverty (5th lowest),  teenage death rate (7th lowest), and pregnancy rate among teens. The most recent measures were from 2009.

Overall, the state ranked right smack in the middle, ranking number 26 overall out of 50 states. IEP defines peace as “the absence of violence.”

The Peace Index ranked Maine the most peaceful and Louisiana as least peaceful.

New Jersey also ranked high in the number of educational opportunities (2), high school graduation rate (6), and the number of individuals with home Internet access (4).

New Jersey fared average in some other key areas, as well. It ranked number 22 out of 50 in the number of both homicides and violent crime, and number 11 in the number of people in jail.

Of the nine states in the northeast region, New Jersey ranked 8 out of nine. Only the Big Apple ranked lower.

Still, the report pointed out that the state is in good territory.

“The Northeast region is the most peaceful region in the U.S., with all of its states ranking in the top thirty of the U.S. Peace Index, including the heavily populated states of New York, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey,” the report stated.

New Jersey is home to some 8.8 million residents and is one of the most densely populated states in the nation.

Perhaps the most revealing part of the report was the level of police per population sector, given the recent news about police department budgets being squeezed due to the state’s fiscal problems. In the past one-and-a-half years, the state has seen several police officers laid off, particularly in some cities – Camden, Newark, Irvington – notorious for high levels of crime.

The Peace Index highlighted the benefits of having police departments with ample resources.

“Having a well-funded police force means that proactive activities can be undertaken such as community policing, where the police spend more time in the communities to gain trust and act as a deterrent to crime or become engaged in rehabilitation programs.”

There are several economic benefits as well if New Jersey reduces its crime, since the state would have to spend less money in various criminal justice, legal and judicial costs. The report said New Jersey could generate nearly $2.8 billion in economic activity if it reduces its violence by 25 percent, and more than $5.5 billion if crime is reduced by 50 percent.

  A think-tank tries to assess ‘peace’ levels in N.J.