Shootings soared in New York City while overall crime dropped more than 20% for the second consecutive month, as the city continues to grapple with gun violence.
There were 77 shooting incidents in the city in February 2021, the New York Police Department announced Thursday, a 75% increase from the same period last year. This follows a 16.7% spike in shootings in January, and a 97% surge during the entire 2020.
Overall, crimes in the seven major index categories dropped 26.5% last month, following a 21% decrease in January. In both months, auto theft was the only category that saw a rise.
The NYPD has made combating illegal guns a focus of its crime-fighting efforts. The Department made 486 gun arrests in January and 400 in February, which in each month was over 60% more arrests than in the same month the previous year.
At a press conference with Mayor Bill de Blasio Thursday, Police Commissioner Dermot Shea said there are “some struggles that we continue to have and working diligently on, such as the gun violence — that continues to be a stubborn thing to stamp out,” noting that the Department had made 20 gun-related arrests just on Wednesday and overnight into Thursday.
As part of its effort to combat gun crime, the city has expanded its ShotSpotter gunshot-detection system by 12 square miles, and will expand it by another four square miles by the end of this month, according to Deputy Commissioner Matthew Fraser of the NYPD Information Technology Bureau.
The benefits of the ShotSpotter system, Fraser said at the press conference, are “more than just knowing that something happened … It’s getting there quicker so that we can react and [arrest] the perpetrators of that crime.”
Hate crimes have been another area of some struggle. While overall hate crimes dropped 42% in the first two months of 2021 compared with the same period last year, there has been a particular surge in crimes against Asians going back to the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, due to the virus having originated in China. The NYPD last year created a dedicated Asian Hate Crimes Task Force comprised of officers who speak various Asian languages.
The anti-Semitism category continues to be the leading hate-crime motivator, albeit at a far lower level than last year: there were 11 complaints of anti-Semitic hate crimes in the first two months of 2021 — 69% fewer than the same period of 2020 — out of 36 total hate-crime complaints. The vast majority of anti-Semitic crimes generally are swastika or similar graffiti.
The NYPD has installed over 200 security cameras as part of the Mayor’s Action Plan to prevent hate crimes.
At the press conference, NYPD Deputy Inspector Jessica Corey was introduced as the new head of the Hate Crimes Task Force, replacing Deputy Inspector Mark Molinari, who left last month to become Commanding Officer of the Staten Island Detective Bureau.
“I want to ensure every New Yorker,” Corey said, “that you have the right to walk down our streets, ride our transit system, and live your every-day lives unmolested and not targeted in unprovoked attacks for the way you speak, look, or what you believe.”
A 28-year NYPD vet, Corey most recently headed the Department’s Crime Prevention Division.