- Associated Press - Saturday, April 18, 2015

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) - New state data shows New Jersey’s crime rates fell slightly from 2012 to 2013, but murders continued to rise for the fifth straight year.

The Uniform Crime Report issued by the state attorney general’s office shows criminal cases reported across New Jersey were down 7 percent overall, while violent crimes remained almost level, decreasing by 1 percent.

The report showed there were 401 murders in 2013, an increase of 4 percent rise over the previous year.

Handguns were used in more than 70 percent of the killings, and about one-third of the state’s murders occurred in Essex County. Overall, half of the victims were between 15 and 29 years of age, and the majority of the murder victims were black males.

Among other categories, rape cases decreased 16 percent, from 1,038 to 874. Motor vehicle thefts fell 17 percent, to 13,709 cases, while aggravated assaults were down 7 percent, to 12,090 cases.

Acting Attorney General John Hoffman said the decreases were “encouraging” but left room for improvement.

“We continue to expand on and strengthen our efforts to reduce violent crime - particularly in the state’s urban centers,” Hoffman said in a statement issued Friday along with the crime report. “We continue to combat gun crimes, prescription drug abuse and illegal drug trafficking.”

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