New York City saw massive increases in shootings, murders, burglary and car thefts in 2020, though decreases in grand larceny and assaults drove a slight drop in overall index crime for the year.
There were 1,531 shooting incidents and 462 murders in The Big Apple last year, representing increases of 97% and 44%, respectively, from 2019. Burglary shot up by 41.7%, and auto theft spiked 66.7%.
“What New York City and our nation experienced in 2020 will resonate for a long, long time,” Police Commissioner Dermot Shea said in a statement accompanying release of the crime statistics this week. “The NYPD recognizes this as a time for asking and answering difficult questions, for reflection and action and for encouraging and serving New Yorkers. This will determine the way forward for all of us. Together, we will ensure the preservation of our collective public safety while also cultivating a culture that upholds the values and dignity of every New Yorker, in every neighborhood.”
Mayor Bill de Blasio has blamed the crime spike on court closures and other “dislocations” related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Shea and other police officials have blamed these and other factors, including criminal-justice reforms – such as a bail-reform law – supported by de Blasio; a police budget that was cut following demands from Black Lives Matters protestors; and attrition related to both budget cuts and low morale at the NYPD. In an interview with Hamodia in early fall, Shea said, “There is no consequence for carrying a gun right now in New York City,” pointing to “the length of time that it’s taking to go to trial,” “the fact that you’re not being held on bail waiting for that trial,” and “the reoccurrence incidents.”
Felony assault dropped by 1.5% from 2019, robbery fell 2.5%, and grand larceny – the category with by far the most overall incidents – decreased by 18.4%, leading to a total drop of 0.7% in the major index crimes.
Last year saw a significant increase in tensions between police and minority communities following the death of George Floyd, a black man in the custody of Minneapolis Police, and subsequent protests and riots in cities across the country, including in New York.
Police union heads and some elected officials have criticized de Blasio for what they view as a soft-on-crime approach, as the mayor has insisted that his “community policing” strategy is key to fighting crime and building trust between police and communities. In early June, there were rumors that Shea would resign; though they turned out to be false, Shea then did not appear at the mayor’s daily press conferences for more than a month, during a period of heavy Black Lives Matter protests. Asked in the Hamodia interview why he hadn’t attended the press conferences, the commissioner replied, “You’d have to ask the mayor … If I was invited, I would be there. I’ll tell you that.”
Hate crimes dropped in 2020 from their record high of the previous year. There were a total of 269 hate-crime complaints last year, a 37% drop from 2019. Anti-Semitic incidents dropped 49%, to a total of 119, representing 44% of all hate-crime complaints; in 2019, anti-Semitic accounted for 55% of all hate-crime complaints. Approximately 80% of anti-Semitic hate-crime complaints are typically property crimes, the vast majority of which include swastika graffiti.
The only ethnic group to suffer a rise in hate crimes in 2020 was Asians, who were the target of more than two dozen crimes specifically because COVID originated in China.