The violent summer many feared would descend on the city this year appears to have passed by.
Killings and shootings dropped in August compared to a year ago, marking the third successive month of such declines.
And while gun violence remains high compared to pre-pandemic years, overall crime has again crept to historically low numbers. According to the NYPD, total so-called index crimes—homicides, rapes, robberies, burglaries, felony assaults, grand larcenies and car thefts—reported through the end of August were the lowest for the first eight months since 1994 and the advent of the department’s CompStat data tool.
The NYPD in August recorded 53 murders, five fewer than last year. Significantly, the department tallied 74 fewer shootings—167—than in August 2020, a decrease of nearly 31 percent.
In the last 12 weeks, shooting incidents are down 31 percent compared to last year, Chief of Department Rodney Harrison said during the briefing. He said officers had made more than 3,000 gun arrests so far this year, an increase of 750 compared to the same period last year. “We have not seen numbers like that since 1996,” he said during Mayor de Blasio’s press briefing Sept. 7.
Commissioner Dermot Shea, alluding to what many prefaced several months ago as a potentially historic violent crime wave, said “some people had a lot of concerns about the summer and rightfully so.
“I am happy to report that this is now three months in the bank where we have really turned the corner in terms of pushing back on that violence with all of our partners,” he said during the briefing. He recalled that violent incidents through the first five months had spiked to about 80 percent more than during the same period in 2020.
At the time, city officials and crime experts said the expected summertime spike—which runs from roughly Memorial Day through Labor Day—had started about five weeks earlier than typical this year, in mid-April, foreboding, they feared, an outburst of bloody conflict.
'It's About People'
Through Sept. 5, the NYPD had recorded 314 murders so far this year, seven fewer than through the same period last year—but still 40 percent more than in 2019.
And despite three straight months of declines, the 1,086 shootings through that date are nearly 4 percent more than last year, and 96 percent higher than in 2019.
Nevertheless, the Mayor and Commissioner expressed relief given that, at the very least, gun violence stayed flat compared to last year, when shootings and murders erupted soon after the pandemic enveloped the city.
“We were faced with a great unknown this summer after the horror of last year, everything that happened in the city,” Mr. de Blasio said before crediting the NYPD, community organizations and violence interrupters for stepping forward.
“We talk about the statistics, but we know it's about people,” he said.
Returning to a theme that was a constant until last year, Mr. de Blasio said that New York ranks the lowest among the country’s big cities when it comes to index crimes.
Shea, de Blasio: Courts Are Key
Overall, major crime is down so far this year, by just shy of 1 percent, and by nearly 2 percent from 2019 numbers.
Shootings declined in every borough except Staten Island, where the two recorded last month were the same number as in 2020, according to the department. And while the 343 gun arrests last month represented a 6.3 percent decrease compared to last August. But while they are up significantly for the year, as Chief Harrison noted, Mr. de Blasio and Mr. Shea again pointedly challenged the state court system to speed up prosecutions.
Both city officials have for months attributed the rise in crime in part to what they have said is the courts’ failure to fully reopen after months of pandemic-related closures and setbacks. Of the courts’ reopening, Mr. de Blasio said, “we've seen some elements of progress, but clearly need more.”
Mr. Shea said that any further decrease in gun violence will depend on the courts to swiftly met out punishment to those convicted of gun crimes.
“I mean, the consequences are critical here,” he said. “We need to have a court system that's functioning from the beginning, right through the grand juries, right through to the end so that criminals, unfortunately, know that they have to face those consequences, for that small number that's carrying those guns.”
We depend on the support of readers like you to help keep our publication strong and independent. Join us.