By important measures, New York City is gradually bouncing back from the pandemic, but in one area the statistics are soaring. Unfortunately, it’s the crime rate. The problem keeps getting worse, political leaders have no answer, and residents are frustrated, frightened, and angry. This is a very bad combination and no one knows where it is headed.
Crimes are happening at all times of the day and night, and no neighborhood is safe. The subways are especially frightening because when someone is attacked, the victim can’t escape, and straphangers, afraid of getting hurt, reluctantly look the other way.
Christopher Herrmann, a professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice and a former crime analyst supervisor with the NYPD, downplayed the problem. “The violent crime problem isn’t spreading much,” he said.
The numbers, however, testify otherwise. The New York Post, citing police statistics, reports that there have been increases across every major crime category, and these include a nearly 54% increase in robberies, a 56% increase in grand larceny, and a 22% increase in rape. “The city recorded a 41% increase in overall major crime through the first months of 2022” compared to the same period last year, says the Post.
Citywide, shootings decreased by 1.3%. However, murders increased by 10%. And there has been a huge increase in hate crimes - for the most part targeting Asian Americans and Jews. Eighty-five hate crimes were reported in the first two months of 2022; by comparison, the number a year ago was 35, according to the police department.
It’s not news that opposing gang members get into violent fights, but these days they shoot it out with one another, and sometimes innocent civilians are in the wrong place at the wrong time. In late April, an infant was hit in the face by a bullet that missed its target.
“No one should undermine how serious this is,” Citizens Crime Commission of New York President Richard Aborn said.
Bronx District Attorney Darcel Clark expressed a related view. “People think that they can get away with whatever they want. There is a total disrespect for humanity.”
There were 485 murders in New York City in 2021, the highest total in 10 years. There were also more than 1,500 shootings - the highest in 15 years and double the number just two years ago. Major felonies are soaring in the subways too.
Despite the numerous crime stories in the news, the subject remains shocking. Following are some of the incidents that occurred between late April and the beginning of May:
A 27-year-old was killed just a block from a station house on the Upper West Side;
A Brooklyn woman was choked, raped, and robbed;
An Asian woman was punched for no reason by a stranger;
An Asian man delivering food in Queens was shot to death, apparently following an argument over duck sauce;
A 23-year-old man in the subway tried to shove another straphanger onto the tracks - just days after being released on charges of assaulting an elderly man and two cops; and
On the night of May 5, two men were killed in Manhattan and a woman in Queens was shot to death after opening her apartment door.
Businesses too are suffering from the surge in crime. Even luxury retailers, who once loved attention, are now keeping a low profile, locking their doors and dimming their lights. But this strategy is not always effective. Some stores have been robbed of merchandise valued in the hundreds of thousands of dollars; the criminals escape, and even when caught are not prosecuted for their crimes.
Unfortunately, four months into Mayor Adams’ term, the crime wave is not only continuing but accelerating. Incidentally, it’s not just New York trying to cope with this problem - numerous other cities around the country also are experiencing the same predicament.
Searching For Answers
Why the upsurge in violence? There are various explanations, and following are some of them. For one, politicians soft on crime now wield a great deal of political power. They have passed legislation like bail reform that was intended to make the legal system fairer, but that has been very counterproductive. Even though the dangerous consequences of these policies have become obvious supporters refuse to withdraw or even modify them.
Violent and deranged homeless are adding to the problem, and their numbers are growing. In addition, the city is flooded with illegal guns as well as ghost guns, which can’t be traced. And the increased use of illegal drugs is compounding the problem. At the same time, cops are not getting the support they need and at this point are almost certainly demoralized. These are very serious challenges and can’t be resolved quickly or easily.
Adams is trying to get a handle on this problem. He has met with 77 Precinct commanders and other police officials to discuss ideas and strategies the city should pursue. He also has made plans to respond to gun violence and other crimes, and how best to deal with the homeless in the subways. But he’s facing a lot of resistance from politicians and DAs who don’t share the fear and anger ordinary New Yorkers do.
“We’ve got to get this right,” Adams said. “We are executing our plans and we’re going to defeat crime.” Hopefully this will happen soon, because it’s taking a high toll on the city and its residents.
According to The Post, a majority of New Yorkers now would prefer living anywhere else and would move if they could; they have lost confidence in the mayor›s ability to deal with crime, and the high costs of police overtime and related expenses are blowing up budgets.
For many years, the city suffered from rampant crime and it wasn’t until the Giuliani and Bloomberg administrations that the numbers were brought under control and the city became one of the safest in the country. Let’s hope the powers that be get it right - and soon!
Sources: abc7ny.com; cnn.com; nypost.com