Murders and shootings citywide climbed in August, marring what otherwise is a continued year-over-year downward trend in incidents of major crimes, NYPD officials said Wednesday.
Thirty-one people were killed last month—two more than were murdered in August 2018—bringing the year’s total to 205, still eight fewer homicides than during the same period last year, when killings declined to a modern-day low.
Shootings Up 20%
But the spike in shootings—there were 91 last month, an increase of 15, or nearly 20 percent compared to August 2018—has police concerned.
A majority of the shootings took place in Brooklyn, Queens and The Bronx. “We know many are drug-related, specifically gang- and crew-related,” Commissioner James P. O’Neill said. “We continue to shift our resources, work to prevent retaliatory shootings.”
The department’s Chief of Crime Control Strategies, Lori Pollock, said that more than one-third of the killings were gang-related but that percentage was likely to rise as investigations continue.
She said the department had addressed the increase in shootings through a combination of tactical crime analysis and real-time deployments. Officers also made 355 gun arrests last month, 60 more than were made in August 2018. Still, the 540 shootings recorded so far this year represent an increase of 7.6 percent compared to 2018’s first eight months.
Not Yet Cause for Alarm?
Chief of Department Terence Monahan pointed out that the number of shooting incidents was still well below numbers from even three years ago. “But any increase [and] we move our resources quickly to address it and make the arrest as soon as possible,” he said.
Officer-involved shootings are also up this year, to 17, seven more than through August last year.
Despite the increases in murders and shootings—as well as surges in robberies, by 6.1 percent, and auto thefts, by nearly 7 percent—major crimes dipped 2.1 percent overall last month compared to August 2018. Incidents that make up all of the major crime categories are down 3.6 percent compared to last year.
“This means people were kept safe. This means that the strategies that have been put in place continue to work, continue to grow, and continue to succeed,” Mayor de Blasio said of the NYPD’s community-policing initiatives.
Although the Mayor’s remarks underscoring what he characterized as the excellence of police work were consistent with those he has made over the last few months as the city’s crime rate trended downward, his subsequent comments alluded to a perceived work slowdown by officers. He referenced statements by Police Benevolent Association President Patrick J. Lynch that counseled officers to be wary of potential confrontations following Mr. O’Neill's dismissal Aug. 19 of Officer Daniel Pantaleo after he was found guilty of using a department-banned chokehold when arresting Eric Garner in July 2014.
“We’ve heard some rhetoric from very few people in the last days, trying to take us backwards, trying to suggest that the men and women of the NYPD are not the professionals that they are,” the Mayor said. “Let’s be clear, this is a group of supreme professionals, hard-working men and women who care deeply about the people they serve and the pride they take in wearing the uniform, and they continue to do their job in an exemplary fashion.”
Arrests have declined 11 percent since the day Mr. O’Neill fired Officer Pantaleo.
Rape: A Broader Definition
At the urging of advocates, the department is now including data on its CompStat crime reports that incorporate a more-comprehensive definition of rape, reflecting a change by the Federal Department of Justice made in 2012. The broader category “includes any gender of victim and perpetrator, not just women being raped by men,” according to the DOJ’s directive.
According to the former definition, promulgated in 1927, rape was “the carnal knowledge of a female, forcibly and against her will.”
That has been changed to “The penetration, no matter how slight, of the vagina or anus with any body part or object, or oral penetration by a sex organ of another person, without the consent of the victim.”
Accordingly, the new category “includes any gender of victim and perpetrator, not just women being raped by men.”
Chief of Detectives Dermot F. Shea praised advocates for the change, saying that the CompStat data now better reflects incidents.
“But regardless of the definition, the department always investigated reports of unwanted penetration, regardless of who was involved,” he said.
Reported rapes in August, categorized by the narrower definition, were down 7.7 percent, to 155, compared to the same period last year. They also decreased, by 1.3 percent to 227, according to the new definition.
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