Mayhem in May: NYPD reports 22% crime spike and 73% shooting surge

A detective crosses a police line at the scene of a murder in Corona, Queens on June 2, 2021.
Photo by Lloyd Mitchell

Coming off a 30% crime spike in April, New York City witnessed a 22% uptick in major felonies across the five boroughs in May, the NYPD reported Thursday.

Compounding the surge was yet another jump in shootings, with 173 episodes of gun violence reported in New York City last month — up 73% from the 100 shootings reported for the same period the previous year. Even so, the murder rate remained flat for May, with 37 homicides reported — the same number recorded in May 2020.

Of the seven major crime categories that the NYPD tracks through its CompStat program — murder, rape, robbery, felony assault, burglary, grand larceny and auto theft (grand larceny auto) — the department reported a year-over-year decrease in May for just one category.

Burglaries were down 21.8% in May 2021, with 942 break-ins reported — down from the 1,205 that occurred during the same month last year.

Except for rape incidents — up just 4.8%, though the NYPD says the crime remains underreported — four other crime categories saw double-digit percentage increases in May. 

Robberies jumped 46.7% year-over-year, with 1,182 incidents reported in May 2021. The city also saw 1,979 felony assaults, up 20.5% from the previous year; 2,848 incidents of grand larceny, 35.6% higher; and 909 auto thefts, up 36.3%.

Source: New York Police Department

Transit crime — a subject of much recent debate between the city and the MTA — also saw a dramatic increase in May, with reported crimes up 93.1%, with a total of 168 incidents. During the same period last May, just 87 incidents occurred citywide, though ridership had fallen off dramatically, at that point, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Shootings continue to be a major concern for the city and NYPD alike since spiking last summer; in July and August 2020, the city catalogued more than 400 shootings. Even with shootings continuing to occur at higher rates, the NYPD has made hundreds of gun arrests each month.

These arrests have come nearly a year after the NYPD eliminated its Anti-Crime Units, undercover squads of officers known to take guns off the streets — but which also developed a trend of negative interactions with the public, including police shootings.

Asked about whether it was appropriate to bring these units back to the NYPD at his Thursday morning briefing, Mayor Bill de Blasio said Police Commissioner Dermot Shea made the right call in reassigning the Anti-Crime Unit officers to other duties, which has helped the department build stronger cases against violent offenders.

“The officers are out there, we saw a huge number of gun arrests in the first half of this year but in ways that are both less alienating to communities and can lead to more effective prosecutions,” de Blasio said. “Now that the courts are finally back, this is only week two, I think we are very confident that you are going to see a high number of successful prosecutions in gun cases, a substantial number of major gun takedowns, taking dozens and dozens of violent individuals out all at once. I think this is the better way to handle the future.” 

The NYPD said on Thursday that it “remains acutely focused on reducing violence across the five boroughs” as summer draws near, “working in tandem with community partners [and] listening to local concerns and implementing intelligence-driven strategies” to help keep the city safe.

“NYPD cops have shown us, time and again, they are willing to go in harm’s way on behalf of all New Yorkers,” Shea said in a press release. “It is this commitment to our collective public safety, in tandem with the communities we serve, that will allow our great city to prevail in the challenges we face together.”

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