Is Crime in New York City on the Rise?

Earlier this year, the city of New York was placed under the microscope as it became one of the most coronavirus-infected areas in the entire world, recording more confirmed cases than several counties put together.

In the preceding months, New Yorkers have been expressing new concerns about the levels of crime in the city, with officials suggesting the rise of violence is a direct response to the COVID-19 outbreak.

New York City Police Commissioner Dermot Shea has continuously blamed bail reforms for "emptying out prisons" amid the outbreak for the rise in shootings.

This is despite data analysis from The New York Times suggesting the release of prisoners to protect them from the virus has played almost no role in the spike.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has also blamed the change in the criminal justice system for the rise in shootings.

In July, de Blasio attended a peace march in Brooklyn to address the rise in gun violence after a one-year-old boy was killed in a shooting in the borough the previous weekend. Just moments before he addressed the crowd, a 23-year-old male was fatally shot three times just a few blocks away.

The previous month, following yet another weekend of shootings in the city, de Blasio assured New Yorkers that they will not be "going back to the bad old days when there was so much violence in this city"—a reference to a period from the 1970s to early 90s when there roughly 2000 murders a year.

While figures show that the crime rate in New York has remained significantly lower than the so-called "bad old days," there have been a definite rise in violent crimes during 2020.

According to the NYPD's own statistics, the number of shootings that had occurred in the city in June "spiked significantly" when compared to the same period last year.

Police said that between June 1 and 30 this year, there were 205 shooting incidents, a 130 percent increase from the 89 which occurred in June 2019.

Other crimes such as murder burglary, Grand Larceny Auto (GLA) also saw a dramatic increase in June 2020 compared to last year, but other offenses such as rape, robbery and assault fell.

According to the latest data from the NYPD, July's crime figures reveal similar findings, with the number of murder, burglary and gun violence victims soaring compared to last year.

In July 2020, there were 244 shootings in New York, a 177 percent increase from the 88 which occurred last July.

The number of people murdered increased by more than half to 54, while the number of burglaries increased from 989 last year to 1,297 in July 2020. The number of auto thefts also increased 53 percent from 583 to 892.

Overall, the number of murders in the city for the first seven months of 2020 are up by 30 percent compared to the same period last year, 181 up to 235.

There have also been a 72 percent spike in shootings up to July 31, 2020. In total, there were 772 shooting incidents this year, compared to 450 in 2019. There have also been a significant rise in the number of burglaries in New York, from 5,932 in 2019 to 8,594 as of July 31, 2020.

However, the NYPD reveal that the overall number of recorded index crimes in the city—murder, rape, robbery, assault, burglary, grand larceny and GLA—are actually down for July 2020 compared to last year.

The data shows that so far there have been 8,519 index crimes in New York, more than 500 fewer than the 9,082 which were recorded in July 2019.

The NYPD said that citywide hate crimes have also declined this year by 29 percent (170 verses 241). In 2019, New York witnessed a significant rise of anti-Semitic attacks in New York.

The attacks resulted in tens of thousands of people taking part in the "No Hate. No Fear." solidarity march for the Jewish community across Brooklyn Bridge in January.

The number of rapes have also fallen slightly from 163 in 2019 to 153 in 2020, but police stress that rape "continues to be underreported" and urge victims to come forward.

"Amid the ongoing challenges of these times, the NYPD's commitment to public safety never wavers," Commissioner Shea said in a statement. "Our men and women officers represent the best of the policing profession and work every day alongside those they serve in an ongoing joint mission to protect life, prevent crime and build safer neighborhoods for everyone across our great city."

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Members of the NYPD salute the USNS Naval Hospital Ship Comfort as it departs Manhattan's West Side to return to Naval Station Norfolk in Virginia on April 30, 2020, in New York City. Jeenah Moon/Getty