The NYPD’s data showed that the city saw 53 murders in August, a 47 percent increased from the 36 during the same months last year. Meanwhile, shootings went up by 166 percent, with 242 reported during the same time period.
Addressing the numbers, Mayor Bill de Blasio said Wednesday that the city had experienced a “perfect storm” of issues due to the Wuhan coronavirus pandemic.
“We are dealing with a challenge we’d never seen in the city,” he said.
However, de Blasio was quick to add that NYC authorities had begun to make progress curbing crime. He cited an increase in arrests for crimes related to guns alongside an uptick in the pace of criminal hearings, following a slowdown in trials due to court closures from the pandemic.
In addition to violent, gun-related crimes, other forms of crime were also up in the Big Apple. (Related: Shooting incidents in New York City surge – NYPD unable to solve them due to ineffective governance and “anti-police sentiment.”)
The number of robberies increased by 4 percent to 1,276 in August compared to 1,226 from the same time last year. Meanwhile, burglaries during the same month were up 22 percent to 1,310 compared to 1,076 in 2019.
Gun arrests were also up slightly, with the NYPD making a total of 359 arrests in August 2020 compared to 357 in August 2019.
The NYPD’s data did have some bright spots. In August 2020, rapes decreased by 22 percent, with only 126 compared to 167 from the same time last year. The NYPD, however, has conceded that rape continues to be underreported in the city.
Hate crimes are also down by 37 percent, with only 182 reported through Aug. 28 compared to 288 for the same time in 2019.
According to the NYPD, it is making efforts to address the surging violence in the city. These include shifting officers to areas experiencing upticks in shootings, collecting timely intelligence about crime and addressing them in real-time. In addition, the department is having officers engage with the community at the grassroots level so they can work together to focus and solve problems locally.
“Despite all the continuing challenges, our NYPD officers are undaunted,” said New York City Police Commissioner Dermot Shea in a statement. “The work of our officers represents the best of the policing profession and it continues as they increasingly engage with all of our community partners to protect life, prevent crime and build safer neighborhoods.”
Despite the assurances from the NYPD’s top brass, however, some local leaders have begun to wonder if the NYPD is actively engaging in some sort of slowdown.
“I’ve witnessed a lot of funerals happen this summer, to be honest, it’s really bad out there,” said Chantal Tejeda to NBC New York. “I haven’t seen much police action to be honest, and you would think with all the violence coming, but no.”
Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams has expressed similar statements. In particular, he’s disturbed by what he believes is the NYPD deliberately slowing down their response to 911 calls as a reaction to recent criticism aimed at the police.
“When a police officer does a slowdown, he’s not only endangering the public, he’s endangering lives of his colleagues,” Adams said.
Chief of Department Terence Monahan, the city’s highest-ranking uniformed officer, has disputed the slowdown allegations. According to Monahan, the rise in violence is instead due to other factors, such as having fewer officers patrolling the streets every week. In addition, he pointed to the rise in gun arrests in August as proof that no slowdown is taking place.
Both Monahan and de Blasio have attributed the rise in crime to not just one, but a combination of factors – an assessment that other experts have agreed with.
“We’re now in the confluence of so many factors and events going on simultaneously, that it’s difficult to sort out the relative influence of any of them,” said Dr. Eli Silverman, professor emeritus at John Jay College of Criminal Justice.
One of the factors, at least according to de Blasio, was the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. During the height of the outbreak in the city last Spring, up to 20 percent of the city’s police force was out sick with COVID-19.
Compounding this is the increased number of retirements that the NYPD saw this year, retirements that are continuing to go up thanks to the general sentiment towards police in the wake of the killing of George Floyd and the protests that followed.
Should this trend continue, then even if the NYPD is able to make progress and increase the number of arrests its officers make, it may still be coming onto hard times in the months to come.