Major crimes in NYC jumped 2.4% during March on heels of murder, auto theft spikes: NYPD

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Police at the scene of a shooting on the Lower East Side on March 30, 2021 — one of the 99 such incidents that occurred during the month, according to the NYPD.
Photo by Dean Moses

After starting 2021 with two solid months of crime reductions, the NYPD hit a bump in the road in March, according to statistics released Tuesday.

Overall index crime jumped 2.4% last month, year-over-year, due largely to a significant uptick in murders and reported auto thefts.

Shootings continue to remain a problem as well, with another 99 incidents recorded in March — up 76.8% from the 56 shootings tallied in March 2020 — even as the NYPD continues making hundreds of gun arrests each month. Another 492 gun arrests were made across the five boroughs last month, with the majority of them (275) occurring in the Bronx and northern Brooklyn.

Another troubling statistic was the surge in hate crimes targeting Asian New Yorkers. The city saw 31 such incidents in March 2021, averaging out to one per day; there were none recorded at the same time last year.

The NYPD’s stats marked the first year-to-year comparison between months impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The virus was first officially detected in New York City on March 1, 2020, and within about two weeks, ordinary life in the five boroughs practically ceased as schools and businesses shut down en masse, and people confined themselves at home.

March 2021, on the other hand, was far more active — with the city continuing to slowly spring back to life as the COVID-19 vaccine makes its way into the arms of New Yorkers. That also, apparently, meant that criminals were back in business.

During March 2021, the NYPD reported 34 murders, up nine from the 25 tallied a year ago — accounting for a 36% increase. Rape — which the department maintains is an underreported crime — also saw a 30.4% spike year-over-year, with 133 incidents occurring last month, up 31 from the same time in 2020.

Auto thefts, which have been on the upswing for months, continues to remain a problem, with 666 stolen vehicles reported in March 2021. That’s a 35.% jump from the 493 incidents recorded at the same time a year ago.

Just two of the seven major crime categories decreased in March 2021: robberies, which were down 11.8% year-over-year; and burglaries, which dropped 8.5%.

Meanwhile, crime in the city’s transit system was also down 32.6% year-over-year, with 118 incidents reported — a decrease from the 175 tallied in March 2020.

Source: New York Police Department

The 99 shootings in March 2021 also represented a significant uptick in gun violence compared to February 2021, when 77 shootings were recorded. There were also 77 shootings during January of this year. 

The NYPD says it “continually deploys personnel to areas experiencing an uptick in violence” and uses “precision policing [to allow] investigators to build strong cases against those very few criminals who are the persistent drivers of violence.”

Even with the March uptick, the first three months of 2021 have proven successful for the NYPD in turning back serious crime. Between Jan. 1 and March 31 of this year, the department recorded 19,551 total major index crimes, which is down 15.8% from the number tallied in the same period of 2020.

So far, there have been 80 homicides in New York City in 2021, up 6 from the 74 recorded during the first quarter of 2020. Auto thefts were also higher for the period, with 1,852 stolen vehicles recorded, up from 1,533 tallied at the same time last year.

But the other major crime categories — rape, robbery, felony assault, burglary and grand larceny — also experienced significant decreases during the first three months of 2021.

Source: New York Police Department

“Our hardworking police officers are relentless in the pursuit of public safety for all New Yorkers,” Police Commissioner Dermot Shea said. “Their work to prevent and investigate crime — as well as to build relationships with those they serve — continues every day, in every borough and neighborhood of the city.”