Major crime continued its downward trend through the first half of the year, dipping 5.4 percent citywide compared to the first half of 2018, and the 135 murders through June were the fewest, according to Mayor de Blasio, for any six-month period on record.
Overall, FBI index crimes—homicides, rapes, robberies, burglaries, felony assaults, grand larcenies and car thefts—fell to 43,294 through June from 45,764 in the same period last year, police said. There were drops in every category.
Speaking during the NYPD’s monthly crime briefing on July 8, the Mayor attributed the decline to “the deep interaction between our officers and the community.”
“What’s working is neighborhood policing. What’s working is precision policing,” he said at the Sugar Hill Children’s Museum of Art and Storytelling in Hamilton Heights. “The combination of the two continues to prove to be the effective formula, and we’re going to deepen that effort all over this city.”
Despite a 7.1 percent increase in shootings, the 135 killings recorded through June were 14 percent fewer than the 156 through the same period last year, police said. The previous six-month low was 136 killings through June 2017.
And while June alone saw a 27.1 percent increase in shootings, the city recorded nine fewer murders—26—than in June 2018.
Although both robberies and auto thefts increased last month compared to June 2018, the month also brought new overall lows in reports of robbery, burglary and auto thefts.
Other Crime Declines
Compared to the first six months of 2018, robberies declined 6.8 percent; burglaries, 13.4 percent; and auto thefts, 9.5 percent. Felony assaults were down 1.5 percent, and grand larcenies fell 4.1 percent.
Although rape complaints were also down—to 880 from 898, or 2 percent—NYPD officials issued their usual caution that rape is typically underreported.
Chief of Department Terence Monahan said the reductions have come despite the NYPD making 14 percent fewer arrests in the six-month period ending June 30 compared to the first six months of 2018. Contextualizing the record-low murder numbers, Chief Monahan said there were 206 killings through the 2009’s first six months, or 34 percent more.
Despite the uptick, the number of shootings so far this year still represent the third-lowest number of shootings of any six-month period in the CompStat era, he said.
Just over 50 percent of the shootings so far this year, or 185, are tied to gang activity, Chief Monahan said, with 37 of the alleged shooters, and 54 of the victims being either parolees or on probation.
Brooklyn Resists Reform
The NYPD earlier this year deployed additional officers in trouble spots, including the 34th Precinct, covering North Washington Heights and Inwood, and the 28th Precinct, in Central Harlem. There were no shootings within either command in June, Chief Monahan said, although one recently took place within the 28th.
Brooklyn North commands, however, where a 28-percent increase in shootings through June collectively accounted for about one-fifth of the citywide increase this year, have been more problematic. The 512 arrests on gun charges in Brooklyn North so far this year account for 35 percent of gun arrests citywide, he said.
Chief Monahan said that while there have been 158 guilty pleas on gun charges by the Brooklyn DA’s Office so far this year, nearly one-third of those will be dismissed or sealed because the defendant has agreed to entering into a diversion program.
Too many gun arrests result in lenient dispositions, he said. He said the average 327-day jail sentence tied to the 158 gun indictments was too low.
Chides DA’s Office
“We are still seeing pleas that result in little or no jail time, and are often accompanied by a diversion program that will conclude with that gun arrest being sealed,” he said. He cited four recent instances where a defendant was put into a diversion program, with two subsequently rearrested on gun charges.
“What we need is that after that gun arrest is made, that that person stays in jail,” he said.
The Mayor agreed. Prosecutors, he said, should be “just as aggressive” as the cops working to rid the streets of firearms. “When there's a gun, there should be follow-through by prosecutors, and depending on how serious the incident is, there should be serious consequences,” he said.
'A Second Chance'
A spokesperson for the Brooklyn DA’s office responded by saying that the diversion program, in use for 10 years, is designed to give “a second chance” to some young offenders with no history of violence who are charged with possessing, though not using, a firearm.
“Those who commit additional crimes while in the program face serious consequences that are only available because they plead guilty before being accepted into the program,” the spokesperson said in a statement. “The real problem isn’t diversion, but the fact that approximately 67 percent of shootings and homicides in Brooklyn North remain unsolved, leaving violent individuals on the streets.”
She cited an analysis by the State’s Department of Criminal Justice Services that found that just 7 percent of the program’s graduates were convicted of a felony within three years, “a much lower recidivism rate than that of their counterparts who were sent to prison.”
“Given this record of success and enhanced public safety, we are investing resources on expanding and improving this program,” she said.