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State Police Pursuits Way Up So Far This Year, Despite Fewer Vehicles On The Roads

Vehicle pursuits by the New Jersey State Police are way up this year compared to last year, despite traffic volume at record low levels due to restrictions imposed by Governor Phil Murphy in response to the pandemic.

According to State police superintendent Patrick Callahan, there have been 153 pursuits so far this year, compared to 102 at this point last year.

In addition, according to data from the New Jersey State Police, the number of people killed on New Jersey roadways is also way up: 343 so far this year, just 15 less than the total for all of 2019.

While Callahan did not provide a reason or theory for the rise in pursuits and fatalities, it is possible that the emptier highways are enticing motorists to speed, which can explain both the fatalities and pursuits.

Asked during Monday’s media briefing what he thinks may be causing the higher numbers, Governor Murphy cited several possible reasons, including higher anxiety levels.

“Lighter traffic, folks being pent up, human nature, stress, whatever it might be, they’re all sort of coming together in a cocktail,” he said.

The New Jersey State Police primarily patrol the New Jersey Turnpike and Garden State Parkway, as well as 89 mostly rural municipalities across the state – as well as the Lakewood morning rush hour.

According to guidelines from the state Attorney General’s office, police officers can only pursue someone suspected of committing a first- or second-degree offense, or any of the following crimes: vehicular homicide, aggravated assault, criminal restraint, aggravated criminal sexual conduct, arson, burglary, auto theft, theft by extortion, escape and manufacturing or distributing drugs.

In addition, according to the guidelines, officers must consider the likelihood of successful apprehension, whether the identity of the suspect is known (meaning, can he be arrested at a later date) and the degree of risk created by the pursuit.

If the pursuing officer believes the danger to the public outweighs the need for immediate arrest of the suspect; and if there is a clear and unreasonable danger to the officer or the public, then he must end the chase immediately.

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