The Homicide Spike Is Real

Jan 19, 2021 · 160 comments
JackCerf (Chatham, NJ)
How many of the killings are business related -- drug or other gang turf conflicts or collections, including bystander shooting? How many are robbery related? How many are what you might call dignitary killings -- angry young men revenging what they consider to be insults? How many are the conventional relationship homicide -- spouses, parent-child, spurned lovers? Until you have a sense of who is killing whom and why, it's hard to discuss what is causing the increase. Same is true of means. How many are gun homicides, and can an increase in gun homicides be attributed to it having become safer to carry an illegal gun?
climate refugee (Hot Springs AR)
There will be limited progress in reducing violent crime until we address the failure of the war on drugs, the problem of wealth inequities and the abject failure of our mental health system. Education, especially early childhood education, and adult education aimed at developing practical, marketable skills also needs to be free or very low cost and widely available. Problems left unaddressed to serve the narrow interests of the rich are crippling our society.
David L, Jr. (Jackson, MS)
During the crime waves in the '80s, black leaders demanded a greater police presence, because black lives matter. Today, after masses of black lives have been saved because of the success in bringing down violent crime, Black Lives Matter insists that the presence of police in black communities is racism. It is racism when blacks are neglected by the police, and it's racism when blacks are over-policed. Whites moving into black areas is gentrification; whites moving out of increasingly-black areas is white flight. Both are racist. Pointing out that blacks commit a high percentage of violent crimes, and that this isn't straightforwardly connected to poverty, is racism. Not mentioning the problems within black communities is neglect, which is also racism. Activists have turned blacks into an eternal object, never the subject. They've done the thing they accuse America of doing: stripped them of their individuality. The Woke have anointed themselves the spokespeople for Black America, as if blacks form some kind of a hive mind and all think and feel the same. No white person has authority to speak about anything pertaining to blacks. If a black disagrees with the Woke, he or she is a "coconut." Only the Woke may judge authenticity. Do the Woke care about real humans? For traditional liberals who do, it's imperative to try to find solutions to this without resorting to either draconian tactics or fantasy policy. There IS injustice here. Just don't count on the Woke to fix it.
Borgerlig (Portland, OR)
Unfortunately the Black Lives Matters movement has pinned all of the blame for the loss of black lives on the police, when in fact the reasons outlined in this article dwarf any loss of life caused by law enforcement bias. A strong law enforcement presence would on the contrary help marginalized communities economically as well, although it would not be sufficient to allow them to overcome the social injustices they have suffered.
Kevin (Sun Diego)
There is certainly a correlation between the amount of violent crime and new policies such as bail reform, defunding the police, reduced police enforcement policies, letting inmates out of jail, etc. This all falls under “less enforcement of criminal justice”. It’s simple really. More enforcement, less crime. Less enforcement, more crime. The opponents to this reality believe that criminal justice is not fair, that it’s systematically racist, and to which the only solution thus far given is just reducing criminal justice enforcement.
Mia (Boise, ID)
@Kevin You need to look at where the money is coming from. Between 1980 to 2015, total funding to police departments nearly tripled, from $47 billion to $143 billion. The Justice Policy Institute said that of that increase, 20% comes from the feds, and much of that in the form of the Byrne Justice Assistance Grants, which fights against drug crime. More money doesn't equal more enforcement when the focus of $435 million a year is specifically earmarked to departments for the war on drugs. Locally funded programs that support victims' rights and social programs; meanwhile, go hungry. It's time to stop fighting the effect of poverty, injustice, racism, homelessness, etc., and time to reallocate at least some of that federal money to local programs that fix local ills. It's not about the quantity of funding, but quality.
Will (Brooklyn)
@Kevin "The truth is never simple and rarely pure" - Oscar Wilde. Also see: Dunning-Kruger effect. Why is this a times pick?
Joshua Marquis (Astoria, OR)
Bravo to the TIMES for actually making good on the oft-promised “publishing a diversity of viewpoints.” And to Rafael Mangualof the MANHATTAN INSTITUTE for finally speaking truth to the massive power that is the TIMES and it’s host of usually echo chamber of commentators. The resurgence of violent crime,and murder in particular in the last 5 years should alarm everyone. In Oregon, where I was an elected DA and personally tried murder cases for 30 years, we have seen homicides in Portland at rates not seen since the violent 80s. Oregon and 30 other stares passed “real time for real crime” truth in sentencing laws in 1995 and for 25 years, murder rates dropped. A plague of woke, so-called “progressive” prosecutors came into office in the last 4 years, almost all underwritten by entities of George Soros. Crime is not a right/left or Democrat/Republican issue. Too many murder victims are people of color, children, the poor, and most decidedly not related to the usual contributor of these pages.
Heather Morton (Acton, MA)
@Joshua Marquis Yes, I too appreciated this perspective!
Andy (Germany)
@Joshua Marquis You had me until “George Soros”.
Alice B (USA)
What does George Soros have to do with it? Sounds like a right wing talking point.
Imagine 2000 (Scarsdale, NY)
What nonsense. Blaming the nationwide rose in crime on an unproven link up criminal justice reform in New York State is illogical. New York Times, there's such a thing as being so open minded that your brain falls out.
William (Chicago)
This is not rocket science. The uptick in murders and other crimes (in Chicago its carjackings that are up 100 percent) is the direct result in big City Democratic mayors taking an exceedingly soft approach to the George Floyd riots, looting and destruction. The message sent to Black criminals was that law enforcement, on orders from the Mayors, would look the other way. In Chicago, this directly resulted in a repeat round of looting by thousands that lasted all night one late summer evening. Among the thousands that looted that night, 13 were arrested. If that’s not a clear signal that laws would not be enforced, I can’t imagine what would be. Now, Chicago is plagued by carjackings. they are happening daily with most involving injury and death. Big City democratic Mayors like Lightfoot are directly responsible.
El Shrinko (Canada)
The pendulum swings back and forth over the centuries: We are too strict - then - we are too permissive. In Teaching, Parenting, and in Governance. Back and forth. To my mind - the pendulum has now swung harder into the "We are too permissive" territory than I can recall in a very long time. I put most of the blame on parenting trends of the last 2 decades. We are now harvesting what we have sown - even if it was well-intentioned.
Aurthur Phleger (Sparks NV)
Tolerance for violence is going to be much lower than it was in the 1980s. Back then for boomers in their 30s (me included) it was kind of exciting. But not so for the boomers now in their 60s or todays snowflakes. Violence combined with school desegregation is going to cause a large exodus of upper middle class families led by the moms. Many live in NYC for the bragging rights to their college classmates but secretly prefer easy parking at Trader joes in Florida.
K. (Québec)
This could be an attempt to undermine criminal justice reform. There are a few references to the criminology literature, but a single year-to-date increase is likely a sketchy way to spot a long-term trend, and we should always be suspicious of anyone who converts numbers under 100 into percentages. Is the Manhattan Institute perhaps a right-wing think tank?
Bilal Khan (Manila, Philippines)
1. We're a violent nation that encourages acts of violence as ways to perform masculinity. 2. We know that violent crimes spike in the summer months because when disaffected people have a lot of unaccountable time, they get themselves into trouble. 3. A pandemic has led to increased socio-economic pressure, given teens and young adults increased unaccountable time, and fewer opportunities to perform their masculinity in more positive activities like sports, school, etc. Want to stop this stuff? Create a more just society... oh, and take the guns away.
J (Va)
oh let them have their way. so long as it them doing it to them who cares?
Kathleen (Oakland)
Seeing same uptick in the Bay Area. Covid prevented local police academy graduates this year so shortage of police.
Edward B. Blau (Wisconsin)
In the formally peaceful upper midwest the number of homicides has increased year after year. The victims and their assailants have grown younger year after year. Armed robbery and car jacking have increased , crimes committed by younger and young men. Almost all of the criminals and the shooting victims are are Black and often from families that moved from Chicago to escape the carnage there. At the same time judges continue to treat young felons as people that are best served with minimal incarceration and minimal bonds. The mayors and city councils yet continue to propose few policemen. A likely solution is to get Federal marshals to work alongside the local police and charge the perps with federal crimes to be heard in federal courts where the penalties are more severe and more certain.
DP (New York, NY)
Interesting to have an entire op-ed based on data from just a single year, particularly one that was exceptional in its devastation. Conveniently leaves out a lot! Why not compare to other cities that have abolished cash bail? Or any other city? Anchorage has twice the violent crime rate per capita, STL has 4x. That would put a lot of this into much-needed context. Cash bail isn’t a way to ensure people show up for their court date. It’s a way to imprison those who haven’t yet been found guilty based on wealth.
Brian (Virginia)
Really curious how neither the availability of firearms- which have seen huge spikes in sales in 2020 beginning in March- or the relationship/level of trust between the community and police force (which obviously needs significant improvement as evidenced by NYPD’s aggression towards peaceful protestors) get mentioned in this piece. Recent history (70’s-90’s) shows that no single factor explains why the number of murders increase or decrease in a given place- at best it’s a combination of numerous factors. In order to reverse the worrying trend of increased murders, considering all the factors including illegal firearm availability (which most certainly increased by late April or May) as well as assessing police efforts to clear cases (which I assume dropped in a meaningful way coinciding with the summer protests) is a necessary starting point.
Roget T (NYC)
It's a complicated problem, but there's one factor that is known. Tightening up border security, which is related to COVID-19, has squeezed the drug supply in the US. This has set off multiple turf wars among the gangs that peddle illicit drugs.
Balderdash (NW)
Don’t worry about defunding, soon we just won’t have police. What sort of masochist would choose this profession today?
Anonymous (Portland)
Exhibit A: Portland. We have a critical shortage of police and no one applying...
John (Virginia)
New York City is on a fast track back to the 70s when people were afraid of the city, Maybe NYC can incorporate Seattle’s plan to decriminalize theft and the crime rates can really soar. Add that to defunding police and then criminals can get away with their crimes as well. More and more we see prosecutors who don’t want to prosecute and lawmakers that want the same. So much for the government protecting its citizens.
Bill B (Jackson Heights)
The attempt to pin this on bail reform is refuted by the NYPD's own data. The NY Post, a conservative paper, found that there was virtually no overlap between persons released under the bail reform and shootings.
Chandra (New York)
Certain parts of the city have more homicides than other parts. But is it not true that these very parts also have more killers than other parts? When, oh when, are problems solved by looking at only half the facts?
Pamela Fitzsimmons (Portland, Ore.)
My city has also seen a spike in shootings. Like New York City, Portland is proud to call itself progressive. We have a DA who ran on an eagerness NOT to prosecute. This very newspaper has embraced The Marshall Project, which advocates for multiple second chances and rewards (college degrees) for violent felons. You get what you nurture. In the 1970’s, we had many prison reform programs that paved the way for historic crime rates that led many states to adopt minimum- mandatory and three-strikes laws. This is history repeating itself, a history that politicians like AOC are ignorant of.
Eric (Manhattan)
This is an extremely important topic too often ignored by the NY Times/Public Radio crowd. NY Times readers may be unaware, but you can see many videos of horrendous crimes on the Daily News and NY Post websites. Ubiquitous video cameras have solved a lot of homicides and random assaults. Unfortunately, though, the perpetrators in recent videos lately all seem to be wearing masks (interesting that psychos hit strangers over the head with pipes or shoot victims in broad daylight, but they are careful to avoid COVID) . BTW, as a former prosecutor and criminal defense attorney, I agree that aggressive policing also drives down crime, mostly by getting guns off the street and stopping the cycle of killing and retaliation - but stop and frisk really went overboard.
DM Williams (NY)
I mean, you demoralize and demonize the police for (however imperfectly) doing their job what do you expect to happen? The sad thing is most of the victims of this tragic spike are people of color.
i urge everyone to speak of gun violence instead of homicide most homicides are result of being shot by a gun homicide ... person killed ... dificult to control the act of killing gun violence ... guns can be controlled the problem is gun violence ...
Rosalie Lieberman (Chicago, IL)
Are comments moderated for civilty, or political correctness? When a managerial level, black employee of ours recently moved, she described her new, middle class suburb as largely "blacks running away from other blacks." She was held up in her garage a few years ago, traumatized, and looked for a fixer upper in a better area. Over the years I've heard stories, largely of young, black teens/adults growing up emotionally deprived, or worse, with mothers, no dads, and sometimes grandparents who cannot take responsibility for what is lacking in those households. It's not just drugs, which clearly ruins some people for good, but poor parenting. Until some of these inner city, maladaptive lifestyles of purposely single motherhood (and some are repeatedly) stop, we will see more of this. The deficiencies at home drive teens into gangs, drugs, dropping out of school. Money alone will not solve these problems. Nor will the BLM movement. Some "lifestyle" choices are not just bad, they are deadly.
Well if AOC says it’s so it must be. Sorry progressives, this is one subject you’re failing in.
Ben (North Carolina)
This is embarrassing. You are correct that there’s been a spike in homicides since the beginning of the pandemic. Then you offered only two possible theories about why this is, dismissed one using cherry-picked data, and then concluded that the other one must be correct. Instead of just throwing stats out there, show me the actual statistical correlation. Show me that this data holds true across multiple cities that had similar reforms. Show me the scholarly research that demonstrates this thing you seem to be asserting as fact. This may just be an opinion piece, but if you’re going to assert something as bold as “police reform increases homicides” then you better have some actual scientific evidence for it.
Mary P Madigan (New Mexico)
Lockdowns have turned western society into a dumpster fire.
Correlation is not causation, period. This article has offered no evidence whatsoever linking any of the cirminal justice reform policies cited to the increase in homicides. None. All you've done with this is say that things have happened, simultaneously. I am one more article of such a low quality away from canceling my Times subscription. And to the author, get your research up. And your critical thinking skills. You've wasted my time and perpetuated dangerous theories. By the way I work in Brownsville (73rd Precinct) and indeed things have been particularly intense this year. What your article fails to mention is that this followed over a year of a very, very agressive Precinct Commander's visibly violent policing strategy, which, though I won't link it to the ensuing violence directly, I would say definitely put a lot of people on edge. So my personal experience would contradict what you suggest here. But guess what! I have just as much evidence to support my theory, which is my casual guess. (Also, why haven't you mentioned the gang war that heated up? Between the Woos and Chos? Anyone with a youtube account can learn all about it) You, however, are a "Journalist" with the platform of the Paper of Record. Do better.
Kind of the stupidest headline I think that I've ever seen as fit to print in the New York Times. When you have a mayor, the mayor's wife, the mayor's children, a city council, borough presidents, a city district attorney, a governor and a state attorney general ascribe criminality to the police alone, and then for anyone who can put a cogent sentence together to imply loudly that they're, "shocked, shocked" that murder in the city has skyrocketed, it has gone beyond stupefying to a realm of total ignorance of consequences. When those who hide behind their wealth and/or their bodyguards begin to become the victims, who've let the less well-connected suffer, we may see a return to basic, civilized law enforcement.
Clark (DC)
This is unfortunate, but not surprising. We need to find a better balance between the need to police crime, especially violent crime, and social justice. The George Floyd killing was a terrible tragedy, and policing must change, but communities facing more socioeconomic challenges will also suffer more if policing is less effective. After a year in which many officers across the country were made to feel increasingly embattled, policing has become less effective in many cases, including New York. Look at Baltimore after Freddy Gray: Police officers feel embattled, they take a step back, and the murder rate skyrockets. The increase in violent crime probably also stems from Covid-related impact on our lives. Whenever people do come together these days, after spending too long apart, tempers flare. Hopefully, new leadership can tone down the anger, the vaccine rollout will start to work more smoothly, and we can all come back together on a regular basis.
Ambrose (Nelson, Canada)
There's a fallacy in logic called "post hoc ergo propter hoc," it happened before (or during in this case); therefore, it happened because. It's unsound to make such deductions. Canada has a socio-economic structure similar to The United States but a fraction of the violent crime. The same can be said for European countries. Perhaps the reasons for excessive violence are home grown.
Alex Corner (New York)
Good article. The author cautiously and convincingly summarized potential causes for the uptick in NYC crime, and you can feel that he is treading heavily to avoid being branded as politically incorrect.
TomD (Ann Arbor, MI)
Poverty causes violent crime. Sharp increases in poverty and unemployment cause sharp increases in violent crime. Always does, always will. End poverty.
Balderdash (NW)
Did you read the article?
Mjb (Brooklyn/catskills)
I live on a BedStuy block that has had a super depressing uptick in gun crime. And the reasons couldn’t be clearer to me: what jobs there were are now gone, and school is out for the teenage boy-men. They are living in cramped NYCHA apartments, can’t go anywhere, and have nothing to get up for in the morning. There’s no money except in hustling, maybe not enough food, and way too much time. The stabilizing influences like church, school jobs and sports are gone. So trouble brews on social media, in hallway gossip and the inevitable spats of too many people being cooped up in dense buildings full of poverty, and it all blows up lethally on the sidewalk. A boilerplate symptom of despair, poverty and blunted opportunity. As to solutions? No quick fix, But Statistically there will be about 4000 men from BedStuy currently in jail right now. Each costs about 120k a year to incarcerate. Just Imagine if a fraction of the $480,000,000 we are spending on locking them all up went into poverty reduction, job training, small business stimulus, education, neighborhood improvement and NYCHA housing improvement. Seriously. Imagine what 10% of that obscene wasted sum could do for a neighborhood of 150,000 people.
EV (Campinas)
This opinion is carefully written to appear rational and factual, but in the end, it is very selective in which factors it chooses to emphasize as probable causes for the raise in violence. A phrase like this one: "It’s true that other places have seen similar spikes in shootings without as much substantial criminal justice reform. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that such reforms aren’t helping to drive the recent uptick in shootings and homicides in New York City." ...with its careful hedging and double negatives should be a classroom example of rhetoric disguised as logic. The agenda of the author is crystal clear.
John Corr (Gainesville, Florida)
"Blacks and Hispanics have constituted at least 95 percent of the city’s shooting victims every year for more than a decade, representing one of the starkest and most persistent racial disparities in the criminal justice data." Interesting analysis. Do you have statistics on the demographics of who is doing the shooting?
Peter C (Silicon Valley)
"This increase in murders was caused by the policy I don't like!" "But murders went up everywhere, including places that didn't implement the policy." "But it was still caused by the thing I don't like, for some reason!"
justvisitingthisplanet (Ventura)
Just another symptom of unresolved societal pathologies which were woven into the fabric during the founding of our nation.
gpickard (Luxembourg)
@justvisitingthisplanet Dear justvisitingtheplanet, Oh yes and have a nice day.
george (new york)
@justvisitingthisplanet OK, so I agree that's part of the issue ... but how do we bring the number of murders down in the short term through presently achievable measures?
William Colgan (Rensselaer NY)
What makes America more murder prone is that guns are as ubiquitous as Snickers bars in the United States. Most murders are accomplished by firearms because that is the easiest and safest approach for killers. Never lose sight that guns are intractable obstacles to policing America’s cities.
Harold (Hecuba)
@William Colgan Unfortunately, Americans are more murder prone than other nations even when you eliminate gun crime. For example, the FBI data show that more Americans, and a higher rate of Americans, are beaten to death with hands and feet, than Japan experiences with all types of homicides. That excludes gun murders, knife murders, blunt instrument trauma, strangulation, poisoning and every other type of homicide in the US. The US is just much more violent.
BF (Tempe, AZ)
@William Colgan It's worth remembering that more Americans have been killed on American soil by guns than the total of all our military-related deaths since we declared our independence. And about two-thirds of our annual total are suicides, pointing to the ease with which an impulse can become a deadly reality. Constitution or not, our policy makers are simply uncaring and stupid when it comes to guns.
Anam Cara (Beyond the Pale)
Unemployment, anxiety about homelessness, hunger, terror of getting the virus, social isolation, radioactive social media and being cooped up in a single household without relief are driving the increase in homicides. Criminal justice reform read as leniency and criminal coddling is the proverbial scapegoat for the increase in crimes of violence, when it is really interpersonal stress brought about by these extraordinary times.
newyorkerva (sterling)
First, George Floyd was murdered. Please call it what it is. Second, plains clothes police have a history of abuse. Cops should be in uniform. Uniformed police stop crime before it happens, not catch criminals after the fact. Third, i believe in eliminating cash bail, but I also believe that persons with a history of crime need to be behind bars or monitored. That requires money and the citizens of NYC and its visitors should pay for that.
Joan In California (California)
We've all, nationwide, been on a giant time out, stay put, everybody just better behave detention type year: a huge practical joke on the country if not the entire planet. We also have become a nation of you-can’t-tell-me-what-to-do's that won’t stay put, wear a mask, and avoid large gatherings. In a way it’s understandable that the underlying seething rage brought on by society itself making these demands would have tragic consequences. It’s understandable, but it’s not excusable. Somehow the 300 million of us have got to look at our restrictions as the best way to survive. One hope is that a kinder, gentler government will help us through the second of the hardest years of our lives.
Andrew (California)
There seems to be a willful disregard of facts here. Homicides and violent crimes are spiking across the country. The author acknowledges this but barely addresses it, instead leaning in further to the idea that NYC-specific policies are to blame for the recent spikes in violence despite the fact that increases in violent crime are evident in cities all over the country. What is it that so many cities have in common that could explain upticks in shootings and homicide? Most metros haven’t had much time since May/June to process and execute substantial police reforms that would yet show an impact to crime statistics. By contrast, the devastating impacts of the pandemic (both to lives and income) have been swift and universal across American cities. The pandemic has instantly closed schools and made it difficult for cities to continue with in-person social services and violence prevention programs. Black Americans, disproportionately likely to live in areas affected by rising violence, have also been hardest hit by the virus. It stands to reason that these widespread social catastrophes are far greater drivers of homicides and shootings than anything unique to NYC like bail reform.
heyomania (pa)
No surprise, of course. The flip side of the coin is the departure of so many residents for the hinterland, to other more welcoming locales, where the leadership of the dominant political party is not in thrall to the progressive agenda. No need to tick off item by item - from garbage collection to no bail for criminals - we've seen enough. Soon they will be out of office, their stau not extended bu the voters, and the cleanup crew will come in. Too bad, our ex three term mayor has had his fill, his better New York dismantled by the lunatic left. But so it goes.
Jim (Philadelphia)
Now that Trump is leaving office, we should see a dramatic drop in Trump Derangement Syndrome and people can start telling the truth again about certain topics, like this one. BTW - I am thrilled that he did not get reelected. The damage he has done is unbelievable. Millions of people now believe in dangerous conspiracy theories. He is a cancer on democracy. However, there are also many on the left that have been completely blinded by their hatred for Trump, so that they can no longer see straight.
James (US)
@Jim Sorry even with Trump gone the left is never going to start telling the truth about this subject or any other
James (US)
@James Let me go on to say that no matter what Biden does every one of their failures will be blamed on Trump for the next four years.
A boring American (Palm Springs)
This pretty much is a top down effect: Americans have been fed poison from the White House every day. That poison has infiltrated all of society: poverty exacerbated, distrust, hatred, pestilence. It reminds me of the Renaissance painting: the allegory of good and bad government. Good Government can’t cure all of society’s ills, but bad Government can create ills of its own.
viridian (South Bend, IN)
"A quarter-century of consistent crime declines, development and economic growth had fortified New York City against crime. It stands to reason that it would have taken more to begin unraveling the historic progress made in the Big Apple since the late ’80s and early ’90s." This contradicts the author's claim that economics do not play a roll in murder rates. If economics don't explain why it took years before various reforms actually impacted murder rates, maybe the root cause is more likely to be the major difference between 2019 (when murder rates were still low) and 2020: COVID. The pandemic had wide ranging effects beyond economics, and has taken a toll on many people's psyches. Fear, social isolation, and desperation all could explain an increase in murders. This explanation has the benefit of applying to other cities that haven't had the same types of criminal justice reforms as NYC, but still saw high murder rates in 2020.
Will (Brooklyn)
An important step when trying to determine causation is to take a serious look at potential confounders. Don't you think 2020 is perhaps the most confounding year in modern history? Drawing conclusions from one year of 2020 data seems wildly and dangerously premature to me. Perhaps you have your own agenda and a serious case of confirmation bias. Meanwhile, the evidence for white supremacy being deeply encoded into the DNA of our policing structure is undeniable - and your piece seems overtly dismissive of the overdue attempts to begin to address this. Certainly, we have a long way to go before we find ideal public safety solutions - but your reactionary rhetoric undermines productive discourse.
Caps (New York, NY)
@Will "... the evidence for white supremacy being deeply encoded into the DNA of our policing structure is undeniable" I'm worry, Will. But ... It is not 'undeniable.' On what basis would we even judge its deniability? Is it 'undeniably' just because enough people on Twitter say so? I'm seriously curious. Yes, I know all about how the Texas Rangers and how all those proto-police posses were used to track down fugitive slaves and did terrible things to former slaves in the 19th century. But the police as we know it in big US cities was morphed in an environment with all sorts of complex and dynamic racial tensions (among the Irish, English, German, Puerto Rican, Italian, Jewish, Chinese), and labor struggles. It was not always some grand Manichean struggle between black and white. Anyone can find within our institutions' 'DNA' traces of practices that can be linked back to morally bereft systems (like slavery in the US ... or anything having to do with Ancient Rome for that matter - they had slaves). But identifying those traces is just about as useful as me learning that I'm 0.001% Native American on my 23andMe test results. It begs the question: "So what?"
Max (NYC)
The number of internal contradictions in this letter are staggering. The author acknowledges that his premise is faulty (other cities are experiencing the same issues with rising homicides but have not instituted reforms, meanwhile all these cities have experienced rising unemployment and the disruptions of the pandemic. Given a factor which affects multiple places experiencing something and a factor that doesn't fit in to the overall picture, which is more likely to be the important one??), but then just dismisses it without any evidence. At all! Ridiculous. Then the timelines are laughably out of sync. Stop and frisk was reduced, and homicides continued to decline for years! But this year all of a sudden it's the reform's fault. He even blames the closing of rikers, which hasn't even happened yet!! Anyway, I get the sense that the author has a different agenda in mind, so maybe the absurdity of his argument is besides the point. As long as we get CCTV, a DNA database, and more $$$ for his cop buddies, then who cares about the truth? The cravenness and dishonesty of this argument is just more evidence for why we need to abolish the police as they currently exist.
Mor (California)
@Max you haven’t read the article, have you? It addresses all of your points. The “abolish the police” movement has been universal across the US, so it’s natural that its repercussions are felt even in places that have not had “reforms”. Poverty does not cause violence. Pandemics don’t cause violence. There has not been an uptick in violent crime anywhere else in the world - even in very poor countries - because no country, except the US, has embarked on the madness of “defunding the police”. I am not affiliated with the police in any way except by knowing something about crime. And I want CCTV everywhere - just like in London and Oslo. I want the DNA database. I want more money to the police. And I want you to go to the mother of the murdered one-year-old and tell her: “In the interests of racial justice, we are abolishing law enforcement, so the murderer of your baby will never be caught.”
jaklayman (Seattle)
Thanks so much for this factual article. It seems like the left now cares a great deal more about the rights of criminal defendants than about the lives of the victims of crime. As this article stated, in NY City the overwhelming percentage of shooting victims of crime are racial minorities. I suspect the percentage of shooting victims of crime are also elevated in many other cities and states. The lives of non-white victims matter. The policing cutbacks that are being contemplated in many areas will inevitably increase the crime rate. In fact, more money needs to be spent to increase the number of police officers on the street and to train them better. Furthermore, if police tactics to subdue rioters are limited, such as prohibiting them from using tear gas, we will have more incidents where rioters gain access to and destroy public buildings, in the wake of the invasion by the US capitol where rioters were using bear spray, as well as force, to overwhelm the police.
Green (Cambridge, MA)
Definitely a tragedy to see a spike in homicides compounding the distress of COVID pandemic and all its stressors on society. As a society, we are chagrin at the failure of government and communities to address the multiplicity of determinants undergirding this homicide trend. By focusing on one policy to explain the homicide rise in the author's glib neglect of COVID is rather myopic. Society has moved away from the binary model of more enforcement less crime. There may be partial correlation in this model, but to incredulously miss the socioeconomic, psychological, relational trauma of COVID on society, especially on the vulnerable, is disappointing. People are not simply criminals or not criminals, they are just like you and I - stressed, and some pushed over the edge, when we are in fear of our health, house insecure, mired in substances, and not enough food to feed our kids. Moreover, as a society during COVID, we have not empowered and invested in community organizations, behavioural medicine, rehabilitation, to match the distress and trauma that many people are experiencing just trying to live and survive. As a public health practitioner, I have seen the direct health impact of this glacier response, but it is apparent that the negative impact reaches to homicides as well.
Common Sense (New York, NY)
The concentration of serious crime isn’t just geographic; it’s demographic, as well. Blacks and Hispanics have constituted at least 95 percent of the city’s shooting victims every year for more than a decade, representing one of the starkest and most persistent racial disparities in the criminal justice data. The author fails to mention another great disparity: a vast majority of perpetrators, up to 95% according to eyewitnesses, are Blacks and Hispanics. The only way to address the shooting and murder rates is to target these communities.
RM (Delaware)
@Common Sense He does discuss this later.
Riley C (Vermont)
This piece nothing more than cherry-picked statistics and baseless speculation. Crime is clearly a problem, but pouring more and more resources into after-the-fact policing and DNA databases does nothing to fix the root causes. It is interesting that the author, while presenting his arguments as based in 'facts' and 'data', cites no statistics or evidence to back up his fear-mongering claim that police reform means murder.
Mark Thomason (Clawson, MI)
"The concentration of serious crime isn’t just geographic; it’s demographic, as well. Blacks and Hispanics have constituted at least 95 percent of the city’s shooting victims every year for more than a decade, representing one of the starkest and most persistent racial disparities" True. But also ~95% of the shooters. That too is a racial disparity.
Jim (Pittsburgh)
At some point we must recognize that BLM is no longer a recognition of police aggression towards Blacks but is now primarily a Democratic political stratagem. And the cynical politics of AOC and the squad have ignited dangerous rhetoric that now makes both police and citizens unnecessarily fearful of each other. Police cannot police for fear of politically instigated retaliation, and people of color, citizens in need, are afraid to call the police because they now believe what is mostly false rhetoric about race and policing. BLM which began reasonably is now beginning to look like Democratic Pizzagate, except it is leading to far more deaths than Pizzagate.
Bill B (Jackson Heights)
@Jim The rhetoric is not false about race and policing. Outside of the powerful anecdotal example of the disparate police responses in DC to a BLM protest as opposed to a Trumpist one, there is also evidence that deadly force is far more likely to be used against black persons and that such persons are more likely to be unarmed.
Alex Spina (Salem, MA)
@Jim Pizzagate was a right-wing fantasy about a conspiratorial liberal pedophilia cabal literally woven out of misogynistic hatred of HRC. BLM is a movement to support human dignity and equality for all, regardless of race, and has been spurred on to new heights and levels of activity by multiple graphic videos of Black people facing disturbing and unwarranted violent treatment, sometimes murder, by police. You should be ashamed of yourself and throw your keyboard away.
Justin (Seattle)
This article is as much opinion as fact. The statistics cited may be accurate, but they're fairly meaningless. Correlation, as is often said, is not causation. Another factor not considered is raw demographics. Most crimes, and almost all violent crimes, are committed by young men. But New York, like the rest of the country, is getting older. And my own opinion, for which direct evidence is harder to adduce, is that it's not economic circumstances (unemployment, etc.) but the less-easily-measured level of hope that moves criminality. President Obama was elected in 2008--a signal of hope to many, particularly in Black and Brown communities. I suspect that that, more than the unemployment caused by the Bush recession, caused the reduction in crime in 2009.
Mike Gorman (California)
@Justin interesting thesis
manfred marcus (Bolivia)
The rise in violence ought not be a surprise in times of crisis, Covid included (and its direct effect on the economy), given that we have been living in a state of chronic unrelieved stress and anxiety and frustration in finding our slot in life. Have we forgotten we live in a climate of a rising social and economic inequality affecting the majority...while benefiting the few 'rich and powerful' divorced from this so called democracy?
The paragraph below is odd. It speaks of the victims of the shootings, but not who pulled the trigger. Isn't it the same demographic group for both? The concentration of serious crime isn’t just geographic; it’s demographic, as well. Blacks and Hispanics have constituted at least 95 percent of the city’s shooting victims every year for more than a decade, representing one of the starkest and most persistent racial disparities in the criminal justice data. Data through October indicates that last year was no exception.
Maureen (New York)
@DD Could the relatively higher birthrates among Blacks and Latinos be a factor here as well?
Isle (Washington, DC)
No police force should be expected to solve this problem, and so Biden should try a new Works Progress Administration program and while it might not completely eliminate the homicides, it will greatly reduce them.
Steven Weiss (Graz)
A number of large cities in the US are experiencing a homocide spike, which implies a general cause (likely related to the pandemic of course) and not local changes in the criminal justice system or policing. Regardless, one should never draw conclusions based on a spike in a single year. Moreover, crime statistics are complicated and I would rather hear from a statistician, or an analysis with more statistical insight then a policy expert who very likely has a particular viewpoint to market.
Lesley Ragsdale (Texas)
@Steven Weiss Left unsaid in this article but still relevant is what impact the spate of arrests of police for shootings th last few years has on the desire of cops to put on their hustle in pursuit of non-dire situations. I am a civilian employee who works at a police station in a city that has had 0 police reform and I can tell you from first hand experiences that the cops here are much less likely to be interventionist than they once were. Cleaning up a body shot by a civilian is frankly a lot less likely to get you fired than is shooting a guy who you thought might make such a body.
Balderdash (NW)
Could the general cause be the Ferguson effect / Delegitimizing police?
Matt (Montreal)
Let's assume police are racist and should be def-unded. Now here's a simple thought experiment: What would NYC look like without policing crime? Well, we could look back to the 1970s. How serene it was then.
Mike Gorman (California)
@Matt scary
JW (Brooklyn)
This is an excellent first step for the New York Times to grow out of being an echo chamber of the uber left-wing. These are facts which, neither supporting or denying a particular agenda, must be known. The police contribute a great deal to our society, fact. To anyone who would say otherwise, they have not experienced senseless crime first-hand. I have, and when something like that happens the police are received. Kudos to the op writer and the Editor(s) who printed this, may they have thick skin for the onslaught of needless aggression by narrow-minded commenters who will email them and try to make this into more than it is.
°julia eden (garden state)
@JW the NYT an "echo chamber of the uber left-wing"? i find it close to baffling how quickly, according to US-yardsticks, various entities are put in the left[-wing] corner - when they could be considered center[-left] according to [western] european criteria, for instance.
Julien (Brooklyn)
Baffles me for the US to be compared to Europe. Huh? Why? On what grounds?
vbering (Pullman WA)
More cops, more cameras, more repeat offenders in jail. That'll get you started, New York.
Christopher (Denmark)
This article is a refreshing view of reality. not often found the "news" reports of modern America. Here's a more typical example: "New York Police Arrest Dozens as M.L.K. Day Marchers Gather Near City Hall" "The confrontation came days after the state’s attorney general sued the New York Police Department for its handling of protests following the death of George Floyd." Defunding the police? You don't want that, no matter how much you think you do, you really don't.
Edward (Manhattan)
Abolish cities. The pandemic, rise in crime, and availability of remote employment have made cities mostly undesirable. The poor and middle class would feel less poor living in rural or suburban areas. They would be safer, receive better educations, be less likely to get COVID, have more money to spend, pay less in tax, pay less in rent, etc. The reasons to avoid NYC (and virtually all other major US cities) could fill a book.
DLR (Atlanta)
@Edward That is the most far fetched solution I have heard anyone contribute to these posts. How in the heck does one abolish cities?
Edward (Manhattan)
@DLR Well, it is already happening among those who can afford to leave. For those who can't, stop subsidizing housing in cities. Increase housing subsidies elsewhere.
pacifico (los angeles)
yes but without the cities you wouldn't have any of the novels or films our nation is known for........but like you said living in Oklahoma is always an option ?
Una (Toronto)
Until affected communities can see that cooperative, respected police presence saves more black lives than any number of BLM protests then we probably won't see an end to these tragic shootings. Poverty also plays a part so ending it would probably have a positive effect. Also today being hard and bad is cool, being square is not. Seeing this played out in our neighbourhoods is not so cool so perhaps society should reassess who and for what it gives its respect to.
Maria (Brooklyn)
@una distrust of police and refusal to cooperate has a lot to do with people's experiences with the police. And perhaps respect should start with NYPD - it may be reciprocated at some point. How am I supposed to respect the police if I have personally seen my husband get stopped and frisked a few times, and was absolutely terrified every that he would be hurt or jailed for no reason? The police do a job and get paid for it just like everyone else - I don't see how they deserve more respect than anyone else. The big difference is that when other people do their jobs poorly or routinely break the rules, they get fired. It is damn near impossible to discipline a police officer. Lack of accountability breeds despicable behavior, be it a repeat offender being let go willy-nilly or a cop free to keep harassing people who pay his salary. It goes both ways.
Garrett (Alaska)
@Maria they deserve more respect than anyone else because they are risking their lives. Working at chipotle is not realistically a hazard to your life. Attempting to physically detain disorderly street people or contain a protest/riot is an enormous hazard. So is driving to the scene of a B&E or domestic abuse. 40% of officer deaths occur while responding to a call of domestic abuse. Which can largely be interpreted to mean almost half of officers in the US die trying to save women from abusive partners while “just doing their job” like you described.
George (Michigan)
This is right-wing propaganda disguised as scholarship: "It’s true that other places have seen similar spikes in shootings without as much substantial criminal justice reform." Yeah, in fact there has been a national increase in these sorts of crimes. You know, during covid. Must be a coincidence. More police will fix it.
Eric (Manhattan)
@George Or maybe nearly universal police reticence to make arrests has a lot to do with it. After all, it was long said that nothing could drive down the crime rate - but then NYC drove down crime by policing. Not saying police didn't need reforming, but there needs to be something to replace aggressive policing. And George, please explain how COVID causes young people to shoot each other for no reason.
Ted Christopher (Rochester, NY)
@George "You know, during covid" Covid did not cause this. A frank look at the problem can be found in the fall article, "The disparity that dare not speak its name", in which the sociologist Peter Moskos pointed out that NYC experienced 366 shooting in January-May this year.  In the subsequent 4 months they experienced 1,064 shootings, 2.6 times the rate of the same 4 months in 2019.  That also represented a 2.9X jump in the rates from the 5 months prior to the anti-police protests. Moskos went on to point out that among those 1,064 shootings "a black New Yorker ha[d] been 63 times more likely to be shot than a white New Yorker". This would seem to contradict the message of a popular protest movement. If people want a historical look at NYC's success against crime it can be found in the August 2011 Scientific American's "How New York City Beat Crime".
newyorkerva (sterling)
Sorry, forgot one comment. If there is a push for DNA for people who have not been convicted of a crime, then I propose we get DNA for everyone who is in NYC. Even for those convicted, I'm not a fan of DNA just being collected. although I realize how powerful DNA is in exonerating and catching.
MB (Minneapolis)
One think that occurred to me over the summer was that the response to the Floyd killing was widespread and overwhelming, with community leaders and citizens of being given a voice and a platform for naming the depths and force of how these killings affect the black community. There was a wave of optimism and community unity that crossed racial boundaries. However, all of this happened in the middle of a terrible pandemic and during a presidential administration that purposely stoked division and made their antipathy towards groups like BLM clear. There was not going to be any way to create remedies to the situation with everyone having the coronavirus on their backs and little chance for the formulation of truly transformative initiatives in the short term. Thus, while the rhetoric was optimistic the troubling socioeconomic reality on the ground of low income people of color was not only exactly the same with no concrete sign of changing in the near future, it was worse. I can only imagine the cognitive dissonance of a young person on the street between the hope being expressed, and the desolate reality of no jobs, no food, stuck inside all of the time and little outlet for expressing frustration. The kind of change we need is a long term prospect. It was never going to happen in July.
DuckSoup (Anatide)
The uptick in violent and property crimes has occured in most large U.S. cities. The crime rate never went down in some cities, from the mid-1990s to mid-2000s. New crime wave, same old ocean of deviants that most Americans over the age of 50 have lived with since they were kids.
markshelby (NYC)
The Times and other news publications have reported that shooting arrests dropped dramatically in 2020 after the BLM protests started, with the NYPD offering only facile and self-serving explanations. Mr. Mangual's failure to at least explain why he doesn't consider reduced arrests to be a potential contributing factor seems to me to be a serious omission that leaves me unable to judge the merits of his argument.
Robert Mescolotto (Merrick NY)
Among the several issues left out include; the break-up of our police departments anti-crime units. These plain clothes squads of cops concentrated on individuals and occasions of mostly incidents of street crimes. The expertise of these units benefited all because the ability to identify criminal activity focused not just where problems arose, but most importantly the ‘who’ of the community that were committing them. Unfortunately for everyone, minority males numbered in the large majority of offenders and arrests therefore took on a ‘racial theme’ that reflected that fact. In this age of opinion, reflection, polarization and mass communication, our society could not bear the obvious failure of efforts to deal with racism and neglect of our most vulnerable populations; cops therefor became the scapegoated representatives of all social fault. The need to explain to officers why they should not be outraged when a bottle or worse is thrown at their heads, by someone they never met, don’t know, who are protesting events occurring hundreds or even thousands of miles away, by individuals who they don’t know, have nothing to do with and who’s only connection is the color of a uniform; especially when deaths from within their own precincts/community numbers from the hundreds to even thousands; and they are rightfully lectured about the evils of ‘profiling’ (stereotyping) anyone else. Morale is crashing and less are willing to risk everything to protect people who won’t protect them
Hiraldo1 (Astoria, NY)
Thank you, Rafael Mangual for this incisive analysis of the crime uptick in NYC. You dispelled with facts the myths that rise to justify violent criminal behavior. As a lifelong NYer, who grew up in the 70s and 80s, I have been baffled in the past few years by the stampede from politicians to present themselves as soft on crime. It seems we humans have an almost impossible time finding the sweet spot. We went from draconian policies (that no cop or criminal expert advocated), such as stopping every brown man in a brown city and keeping kids in jail for shoplifting school bags, to a proudly touted revolving door policy that releases perpetrators of all kinds of criminal conduct on nothing but their word to show up in court later. These soft on crime policies of course are popular with white transplants who seem vent on ensuring that they create the city they fantasized about when they washed crime films and shows back in Oklahoma or Kansas. Of course, as soon as they get their way, they will be the first to pack up and go. NYC for them is just an empty screen on which to project their fantasies. The rest of us, who are emotionally and financially tied to the city, will be left holding the bag... that will be stolen at gun point.
Tina Trent (Florida)
@Hiraldo1 White transplants? Obnoxious stereotyping. And the people doing the most policy harm are native New Yorkers (or at least congresswomen from the wealthy suburbs). A great many people of all races would have remained in the city of our grandparents were it not for the behavior of criminals. They cost us our safety, our peace of mind, our hard-earned property value, and sometimes more. Many of us have been fleeing criminals for generation after generation as the criminals spread out from cities and live off productive people in previously safe towns. Nobody is to blame for crime except criminals themselves. Hipster projections don’t kill people: criminals do.
B. Rothman (NYC)
@John Chastain Conservative is the wrong term. Reactionary is a better term. Your pointing out the influence of economics on this issue is absolutely something that punitive reactionaries love to ignore. Against this background I keep thinking about Trump’s refusal to deal with Covid19 and the 400,000 deaths from it that are routinely ignored. All these deaths, perhaps, could not have been prevented but doing nothing in this case was also a kind of violence, and IT KILLED many times more than a bodega holdup and for no reason whatsoever. It has apparently never occurred to those who favor fear and punishment above all that one of the reasons many European countries have a lower rate of homicide might be the lack of availability to guns and a better social support system. But we, being perfect, can’t learn anything from other nations.
Ted Christopher (Rochester, NY)
@Hiraldo1 Thank you for an insightful take. Your "white transplants" I think of as part of a naive subset of liberals bent on impersonating Atticus Finch. The irony is that the associated soft-on-crime policies invariably hurt the black community.
Matt R (Brooklyn)
We had an historic low in homicides leading up to 2020. To talk about the percentage change in homicides from 2019 to 2020 is incredibly misleading. I'm sorry, but those of us who lived through the crack epidemic when we regularly had over 2,000 murders per year are a tad confused as to all of this absurd fear-mongering about crime. It's just not there. 447 homicides is not nothing, but in a city of 8 million it is still one of the lowest per capita in the nation. The current stats are a mild regression yes, but to the numbers of just a few years ago. I'd urge people to stop reporting the percentage increase just to alarm people. One shooting is bad, let alone hundreds, but let's deal with reality.
@Matt R 8 times more violent crime per capita in the USA than the average in western Europe. 50 times higher risk to be killed while being robbed in a large US city than in European capitals. And 8 times higher incarceration rate in the USA than in Europe. Except the UK with double the incarceration rate of France, Germany or Italy.
Jackson (Virginia)
@Matt R Your city is no longer 8 million.
Rudy (Queens)
@Matt R It almost seems like you think the issue will go away on its own which is not reality. You think its only a viable issue if we reach 2,000 murders? A nearly 100% increase in homicides should alarm anyone. Refusing to acknowledge an ongoing issue does nothing to resolve it, instead it will just perpetuate it.
SD (Detroit)
How are some of the country's strictest gun laws working out for y'all?
Ted Pikul (Interzone)
New York, Philadelphia, gets worse the further south you go. (Chicago's per capita homicide rate, often presented by national media as an outlier, is in fact firmly in the middle of the pack among cities with populations over 100,000 - has been for years). And it won't get better - not where I live, in Philadelphia - because the white people who have power are living their oedipal complexes through the Defund Police movement. In Philadelphia, a man was just killed by someone who was given bail two weeks ago; the person who is responsible for this, Larry Krasner, is beloved by faux-gressives across America, and is not going anywhere, even though 100 more African-Americans were murdered in 2020 than in 2019 (which was also a banner year). The economic upper class, which has taken over left-wing humanism in America, is sick. It does not care about other humans any more. Times employees and readers just shop, and worship our deluded images of self, and tell ourselves we've "done enough"; and, as the movie Get Out argued, we live our fantasies of aggression and transgression through the most damaged members of the communities that we pretend to care about, and then drink a glass of milk and go to bed while someone else gets arrested and someone else removes the bodies. Sick.
Jim Brennan (Ridgewood, NJ)
Thank you Bill DeBlasio. I guess all your policies really worked. Maybe you should talk to Bloomberg.
Jack Williams (Westport, CT)
@Jim Brennan Having grown up in NYC during the 70's and 80's, I never imagined there would be a worse mayor than David Dinkins. However, Bill DeBlasio is without question the worst mayor in the history of the world.
Victor (NYC)
Well put. Police/criminal justice reform can be important but can also have excesses, that we need to be wary about. The spike in homicide is very serious, with an overwhelming impact on Black youth (far, far more of an impact relative to cases of police brutality), and the inclination of many white liberals to deem articles like this as "fearmongering" is quite telling.
Paul (Brooklyn)
Ok, let's go over it again for the umpteenth times, murder and crime rates in general go up or down for three main reasons. 1-Demographics 2-Demographics 3-Demographics The same is true this time. When all is said and done, the unemployment rate, out of school, bulge in young age groups etc. will usually be culprits in whole or part. However, the demagogues on the left and right will get the ink ie on the left, we must coddle the criminal as the answer and on the right shoot first and ask questions later and bring back the death penalty.
SoHo Boy (Upstate NY)
This column makes some reasonable points, but is undermined by citing policy changes in 2014 and 2017 as reasons for a spike in murders in 2020.
Max (NYC)
And here you have a textbook example of the problem with left wing, "social justice" politics. Sounds great, makes you feel good. Doesn't work. The data was there for anyone to see. NYC cleaned up its former crime problem by getting tough on criminals with "broken windows" policing and using statistics to focus on the most dangerous neighborhoods. It is truly a shame and there are obvious historical causes, but most of the perpetrators were young Black men. Not just according the criminal justice system but according to victim statements (who are also primarily Black). To acknowledge this is of course a cancel-able offense of white supremacy. So, instead of trying to help these young men figure out their lives (while also fixing police brutality), we call it racism and just change the rules. No school suspensions, no tests, no stops, no arrests, no bail. And predictably, it's a worse result all around.
Marcy (DMV)
@Max I’m not sure how you think that acknowledging blacks disproportionately perpetrate and are victims of violent crimes is cancelable white supremacy when stats bear that out. But do explain your plan for bringing back broken windows policing without bringing back brutality. Explain how a stop and frisk system whose targets were close to 90% POC is not biased. Let me know if you agree to being stopped and frisked when broken windows policing returns.
Max (NYC)
@Marcy Stats have nothing to do with being cancel-able. Try explaining the actual numbers regarding unarmed police shootings. Overall it's exceedingly rare (low double digits per year). More whites than Blacks are shot. No one wants to hear it. Stop and frisk targets are POCs because that's where the crime is. Targeting whites on the UES might make you feel good but it won't prevent crime. If I lived in a high crime neighborhood, yes I would submit to be questioned or even frisked on occasion. Depends on the situation. No I'm not in favor of police brutality.
John Brown (Washington D.C.)
@Marcy "Explain how a stop and frisk system whose targets were close to 90% POC is not biased" Explain how policing procedures that stop and frisk elderly jewish ladies and young black men equally is not ludicrous when the perpetrators of violent crime are biased toward young black men? Bias isn't inherently wrong.
ACW (New York)
We give so much attention to the few disgusting police violence images caught on cell phones but mostly ignore the FAR more often murders happening in poor communities. The police are not the problem in the south Bronx. Stop saying we should defund them and actually fix the problem.
TJ (United States)
If powerful, white wealthy liberals in the country actually talked to members of the Black communities, they would have realized that many did not want to "defund the police". Their position on policing was much more nuanced and of course they wanted arrests of violent/property crimes in their areas. Of Course they wanted their neighborhoods to be safer. But we, as we increasingly tend to do as a a country, allowed the loudest and trendiest hashtags to set the agenda - and here we are.
Matthew M (Chicago)
A request to NYT, if you are to publish an opinion piece such as this, which has cherry-picked statistics without any broader context and exhibits a great deal of the writers own stereotypes re: crime, have some balance please by running counter articles or perhaps a table eg Neighborhood Scouts top violent cities. Things aren’t always the way they appear at first glance. And few readers have the time to do their own independent research. Here’s just two links that give a fuller picture of crime in America. That is, some of our biggest cities are not even in the top 30 when crime/capita statistics used.
KM (Pittsburgh)
@Matthew M Every article the times publishes has cherry-picked statistics and stereotypes. It's just that most of the time you agree with the author and so you don't care.
Balderdash (NW)
This is ancillary to the article, but I am opposed to trying kids (<18) as adults. I am otherwise in favor of the measures in this article. Crime is rampant.
Casual Observer (Los Angeles)
@Balderdash Kids have undeveloped portions of their brains related to long term consequences, but they know doing harm to people is wrong right down into their souls. When adolescents murder they do so with the same situational awareness as any adult.
larkspur (dubuque)
It seems criminals rightly believe they are more likely to get away with malfeasance these days. If simply never caught or out on the street rather than locked up, they can see less consequence for whatever they have in mind. Add on a desperate situation and you have more carrots than sticks. Of course police need reform. But the times call for more police exactly when nobody in their right mind wants to be a cop. In other words, time to increase the budget of police, not cut it. Sorry to see how wrong first instincts can be on either the right or left of the spectrum.
Dejavu (Rexford, NY)
As far as I can tell, it is not the system who is shooting them, they are just vandalizing their communities. Both groups. No love, patience, sense of community, tolerance to frustrations. Nothing can change that.
Chris (California)
As the article mentions, poverty and unemployment are not directly correlated to a rise in violent crime. AOC's explanation would apply to property crime, not violent crime. The 1980s, a far more dangerous time in American cities, was more prosperous than today. Stop bringing up economic decline brought on by the pandemic to explain this. Acknowledge the reduction in police resources, morale, and enforcement mechanisms that were brought on this past year. People are committing more crimes because they know they can.
Nobody (Pennsylvania)
There is an almost inevitable tradeoff in aggressive criminal justice practices. More dangerous offenders are deterred or incapacitated, but more individuals who are not dangerous are incorrectly drawn into the criminal justice system (i.e., "net widening"). Until we directly address this tradeoff and establish a sensible balance, the pointless and fact-free debates about criminal justice "reforms" will continue. There really are dangerous people in our communities but also many people who are treated as dangerous who really are not. The criminal justice system can be a very blunt instrument. We need to make it more "surgical." There are tools and practices that can help but mistakes are part of the human condition.
Diogenes (NYC)
@Nobody First comment to actually acknowledge the difficulty of 'getting it right' on violent crime. As a society, we seem to veer sharply between the two poles - 'hammering' communities vs hands-off reforms - with predictable results. An intelligent dialog would focus on things that actually work to make communities safer while also respecting the young, male residents. Hard work, but the only path that actually supports human flourishing in all neighborhoods.
Robert Kennedy (Richardson TX)
Violent crime including homicides are way up in every major city, including Dallas. It very likely that the pandemic is a factor. As this report indicates, it is important to understand police actions and reforms and how they can lead to unintended consequences.
klaxon (CT)
Is this a recent uptick or a larger trend? What are the ways tp cut off the pipeline of illegal guns in circulation? Don't gun owners, even legitimate ones, bear a responsibility for the gun community that includes those used in shootings? If no one is responsible, what are our options? Can a new national response help and how? When it leaves NY, how about the NRA leaves a large gun cleanup and victim fund?
TJ (United States)
@klaxon It's a recent uptick. The larger trend of homicides in NYC was negative.
Miss Anne Thrope (Utah)
@klaxon - The nationwide murder rate has steadily declined for 40 years, and, pre-pandemic, was less than half the '80 rate. It'll drop again as we slooowly move out of pandemic-mode and the societal pressures drop.
Ted Christopher (Rochester, NY)
@Miss Anne Thrope That might be true in Utah but that is very unlikely to be the case in cities. The Ferguson effect had a big impact in cities after the earlier protests and its long-lasting impact can be succinctly see in Baltimore's violent crime rates (see "American Crime and the Baltimore Model". For the national impact see US Department of Justice’s July 2020 “Selected findings from the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting Program”. In that collection’s Table 5a Number of homicides, by victim sex and race, 2009-2018 you get to see roughly the last decade’s worth of homicide dynamics and in particular the Ferguson Dynamic. From 2009 thru 2014 black total homicides are pretty locked into 7400-ish. Then the protests and the annual figures for 2015 thru 2018 are 8480, 9200, 9095, and 8580, respectively.
aimlowjoe (new york)
I've noticed a huge increase in graffiti all over the city. Especially the highways. We can easily go back to the bad old days.
vincent7520 (France)
@aimlowjoe Graffitis with guns drawn on them or without guns ? Seriously don't equate a paper dropped on the sidewalk with a mega oil spill on the Louisiana coast !…
Allenna Leonard (Toronto)
AOC is not wrong. She says it is a Combination of poverty and the pandemic. Look at the changes the pandemic has brought to the lives of young people. Their usual outlets for energy are mostly closed off. No gatherings, no team sports, community centres shut down... Frustrations are high, boredom is high and tempers are short. If families are at least moderately well off, they have more options (real and perceived) and they are likely to have enough space in their apartments so people aren't in each other's laps. I think we underestimate the extent to which middle class families have non-tangible resources to weather storms including economic ones. Not to say that criminal justice reform shouldn't be looked at to see what improves things and what doesn't, but as the article states, other jurisdictions that haven't engaged in criminal justice reform have seen comparable jumps.
Brock Landers (Van Nuys, CA)
Did you read the article? AOC’s hypothesis is disproven by the evidence. “But while there is a connection between certain socioeconomic indicators and property crime, the same cannot be said for violent crimes like shootings and homicides. Available data on poverty, unemployment and the sort of violence occupying the minds of New Yorkers over the last year undermine the supposition that there is a strong causal relationship among these three phenomena.”
Max (NYC)
@Allenna Leonard Soft bigotry of low expectations. Without "the usual outlets for energy" they simply can't help murdering?
TJ (United States)
@Allenna Leonard "But while there is a connection between certain socioeconomic indicators and property crime, the same cannot be said for violent crimes like shootings and homicides." “no consistent relationship between the extent of a group’s socioeconomic disadvantage and its level of violence is evident.” Please read the article. The writer addresses how she's wrong.
Carl (Philadelphia)
There are two reasons for he increase in homicides and shootings. The pandemic and the economic decline due to the pandemic. Crime always increases when the economy declines. Fix the pandemic and get business to reopen and the economy will improve. Tourism will come back to NYC after people feel safe that the pandemic has been conquered. Crime will fall as people will have jobs and will feel more secure.
DRS (New York)
@Carl - please read the article, which cites academic literature contradicting your claims.
Bruce Williams (Chicago)
It's interesting that one responder compares the US and NYC to Europe. Normally large numbers want to compare the US to Europe, negatively, especially in medical care.
Wade Sikorski (Baker, MT)
Here's a theory: The COVID epidemic caused the upsurge in violence. We know that it attacks the brain, causing depression, memory problems, and other issues. It might also cause violence. One of the seriously under-reported causes of violence is that exposure to neuro-toxins, like lead and mercury, significantly contributed to the upsurge of crime from the 60's, through the 70's, and on. When lead was removed from gasoline and paint, the crime rate dramatically fell. The same could be possible with COVID. We need a study comparing the violence of people infected with COVID and the people who were not.
Jean (Philadelphia)
Interesting that gun control isn't addressed.
KM (Pittsburgh)
@Jean Most of the gun control measures currently being talked about, like "assault rifle" bans, will do nothing because the overwhelming majority of gun murders are committed with pistols. Taking guns away from convicted criminals would probably help, but stop and frisk has been banned, and the NYC DA has openly talked about not pressing charges against convicted felons caught with firearms "because they need to defend themselves".
Josh (Boston)
I’m sure we all understand that frustration. It is worth considering though that gun purchases in New York spiked right before the major upticks in crime (when COVID hit). Researchers have drawn a fairly definitive link between more guns in a state and more gun homicides. In addition to legal gun purchases in NY, it is almost certain that some of the increased purchasing we saw around the nation were increased purchases by “gun-runners”, who then sell those firearms in NYC illegally. A national registry for firearms, along with several measure at the national level, can go towards preventing gun-running. To the increase in legal firearms purchases In NYC, a comprehensive gun licensing system would at the very least deterred more firearms purchases (and likely trained people to be more safe). While perhaps the current national dialogue around gun control measures wouldn’t be helpful for New York right now, there are plenty of other measures that would be helpful.
Caps (New York, NY)
@Josh I agree with all your points, but I'll point out that NYC already has a very comprehensive gun licensing system. The permit application requires a fingerprint, registration of the firearm with the police department, background check, character statements, tax returns, etc. It's incredible comprehensive. And that's just to own a handgun that's locked up in your home. If you want a concealed carry permit? Fahgetaboutit. Unless you're a cop, security person, or someone who has a direct, vocational need, it's nearly impossible. On that topic, I remember reading several reports of gun crimes last year in NYC where the perpetrator had a concealed carry license. They were mostly domestic violence incidents, and the perpetrators all seemed to be members of different B-team 'security' units (university security, transit security, etc.), who ostensibly were easily granted permits based on their job title. This raises questions as to the hiring practices of 'security' agencies and our willingness to arm them so easily. If all you need to carry a gun is a GED and job title with the word 'security' in it, then that would be problematic. Maybe the Times should investigate!
simon (MA)
Great to read a factual article like this. Actions have consequences and if the dots connect, well, there you go even though the results may not correspond to the popular ideas of the day. Less emotion and more factual analysis needed today.
M Davis (Mo.)
Those blaming this on "the left" should recall that President-elect Joe Biden was a major sponsor of increased funding for police that led to major drops in homicide rates nationally.
Kyle D (New Jersey)
The fact this man is skewing these statistics to try and expand surveillance, turn NYC into more of a police state, and fear monger about several vital reforms is shameful.
Carlos S. (Oakland, CA)
@Kyle D "Skewing" them how? Your bold plan for addressing a 97.4% increase in shootings since 2019 is... what exactly?
See also