A year after a most violent summer in New York City, the tide seems to have finally turned against violent crime — and street gangs.
The murder rate plunged nearly 50%, and shootings fell by 35%, during the month of July, Mayor Bill de Blasio and Police Commissioner Dermot Shea reported at an Aug. 5 briefing. That comes on the strength of hundreds of gun arrests and a number of recent street gang takedowns as police and prosecutors work together to take “the worst of the worst off the streets,” as Shea put it.
“We had some real challenges but we also saw some extraordinary successes from the NYPD,” de Blasio said. “July is one of the toughest months of the year in the middle of summer. And yet the NYPD rose to the challenge and fought back gun violence.”
The NYPD reported 29 murders during July 2021, down from 57 reported in July 2020. That number is even lower than the 34 homicides reported in July 2019 — a decrease of 14.7%.
Additionally, the NYPD reported 158 shooting incidents last month, down from the 243 shootings that occurred in July 2020. Still, the July 2021 figure is 79.5% higher than the 88 shootings recorded in pre-pandemic July 2019.
Police officers across the Five Boroughs also made 383 gun arrests in July — more than double the number reported year-over-year. So far in 2021, the NYPD has made 44.5% more gun collars than it did during the first seven months of 2020.
Along with crediting the NYPD for its investigative efforts, de Blasio also remarked that the reduced murder and shooting rates reflected the success of the Safe Summer NYC initiative launched in May. Along with boosting police resources, the program also provided greater community and youth programs while also supporting violence interrupter groups.
Since being enacted, de Blasio said, murders are down 26%, shootings have fallen by 10% and the number of shooting victims has also decreased by 11%.
Another important part of the puzzle, Shea noted, has been efforts between the NYPD and prosecutors to crack down on gang activity across the city. This week, the NYPD and its partners in the Bronx and Manhattan District Attorney’s office, as well as the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced two major stings that led to dozens of arrests; another gang crackdown in Queens was set to be announced Thursday.
The commissioner said getting tough with street gangs will ultimately result in future crime reductions.
“These cases are piling up,” Shea said. “The work is being put in by investigators and we know it’s going to absolutely drive down the violence in New York City.”
Bronx District Attorney Darcel Clark joined the briefing to discuss the gang takedown in her borough. She said her office is working closely with both the NYPD and community members to tackle street gangs and bring the members to justice.
Having the cooperation of the public is essential to the success of prosecutions, Clark noted.
“We’re not doing criminal justice or law enforcement in the same way anymore; it’s not nail-’em-and-jail-’em for everyone,” Clark said. “But we need the community to help us identify those who are really causing [violence]. And when we look at it, it’s those few that are doing it, and not all. The community wants to be safe; they’re working with the police to continue to be safe.”
Both Shea and de Blasio again appealed for the New York State courts to step up their activity and return to pre-pandemic levels of operation. The commissioner noted that the NYPD has 5,100 open cases, many of them alleged gang members, current pending in the criminal justice system.
“When we start to see those cases adjudicated, you’re going to see crime and violence in New York City plummet,” he asserted.
Overall crime in New York City was even for the month of July, according to the NYPD. Approximately 8,749 major crimes (murder, rape, robbery, felony assault, burglary, grand larceny, auto theft) were reported for the month, up approximately 14 from the 8,735 such incidents in July 2020.