Crime citywide has fallen since mid-March, when the threat of COVID-19 began to envelop the city and the first of several measures designed to slow its spread were initiated, according to NYPD statistics.
Police Commissioner Dermot Shea attributed the drops to the measures taken by city and state officials, such as closure of schools, bars and restaurants, and then the imposition of steeper measures to stem the spread of the virus.
“We saw an immediate drop in most categories, I would say, of crime,” he said during Mayor de Blasio’s update on the virus Tuesday night.
Just 1 Murder
There was an overall drop of 16.6 percent in major crimes for the week ending March 22 compared to the same period last year. Felonious assaults, by 9 percent; and grand larcenies, by 31 percent, dropped. Of the major crimes, only auto thefts, by 52 percent, and robberies, by 2.4 percent, climbed.
There was just one murder recorded for that week, six fewer than during the mid-March 2019 period.
And although he said there were some pockets of shootings that needed addressing, overall shooting incidents were down 24 percent for the week, compared to the same period last year.
Mr. Shea said March 23 had the fewest recorded crimes since the city last saw three feet of snow.
But while reported rapes also decreased, by 65 percent, both Commissioner Shea and the Mayor said they were concerned by that steep statistical drop, saying those numbers likely reflected a decline in reports rather than actual incidents. “Maybe I'm just glass-half-empty here. But I can’t imagine that you know, the crimes aren't happening,” Mr. Shea said.
Arrests, by 42 percent, were down across the board, except for auto theft. Those more than doubled, to 25 from 12 for the same week in 2019.
Mr. de Blasio also cautioned that bias crimes, particularly against people of Asian heritage, appear to be on the rise since the virus, which appears to have started in China, gained a foothold in the city. He said such assaults, whether verbal or physical, were “thoroughly unacceptable.”
“We will not stand for it,” he said. “We'll ensure there's consequences for anyone, but we need the reports to be able to have the NYPD do the investigation and follow up and ensure that justice is served.”
Despite the mid-March dip, which could well extend for a few weeks if the decrease is in fact related to the coronavirus outbreak and the efforts to combat it, index crimes so far this year exceed last year’s totals by just over 17 percent.
Only murders, by 11.6 percent, and reported rapes, by 24 percent, are down, with the five other major-crime categories—robberies, assaults, burglaries, grand larcenies and auto thefts—all up by double-digit percentages or close to it.
The increases were apparent soon after the New Year, and Mr. Shea is convinced that the state’s new bail and discovery laws, which went into effect Jan. 1, are to blame.