For the First Time in 20 Years, New York's Crime Rate Is on the Rise

While Bloomberg brags about his record, the city's crime rate is on the rise

As for individual precincts, crime is up in 47 of the city's 76 police precincts, NYPD figures show. Seventeen precincts are showing double-digit percentage increases through September 9.

The 101st Precinct in Rockaway, Queens, has shown a 42 percent increase. A trio of adjacent Manhattan precincts—the 23rd, 24th, and 25th, on both sides of the north end of Central Park—each have had increases of more than 16 percent. There are also significant increases in unexpected neighborhoods. The wealthy Upper East Side's 19th Precinct has shown a 15 percent climb in crime, largely due to grand larcenies.

Grand larcenies and robberies are largely fueling the increase—10 percent, or 2,534 cases, of grand larceny and 5 percent, or 598 more cases, of robberies. The increase in grand larcenies has been attributed to a rise in thefts of personal electronic devices, like smartphones and tablets. "The theft of Apple phones and other handheld devices drove the spike in robberies and larceny this year," Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly posted to the NYPD's Facebook page. "Individuals alert to their surroundings are less likely to become victims, and Operation ID will help those whose property is lost or stolen to get it back." Meanwhile, only two precincts in the city—the 32nd and 34th in Washington Heights—are showing double-digit declines.

Derrick Haynes, a West Harlem community activist, is trying to get resources for youth to stem violence.
C.S. Muncy
Derrick Haynes, a West Harlem community activist, is trying to get resources for youth to stem violence.
The Grant Houses have basketball hoops—unlike the Manhattanville court.
C.S. Muncy
The Grant Houses have basketball hoops—unlike the Manhattanville court.

The multiyear trends are also somewhat troubling. For example, NYPD data shows that the total number of robberies has increased in each of the past three years. Felony assaults have increased in each of the past four years. The number of rapes has increased in every full year since 2009.

In public housing—and there are more than 300 such developments in the city—major crime is up 14 percent, with robberies and assaults each up about 20 percent, according to a report in the New York Daily News. Crime is also up in the subways.

And even though the NYPD only tracks crime in the 31 largest parks, those figures are showing significant increases in major crimes, according to NYC Park Advocates.

The trend also holds for misdemeanor crime numbers. Misdemeanor assaults are up 9 percent and petit larceny, 6 percent. Misdemeanor sex crimes are up 11 percent. Possession of stolen property cases—another misdemeanor—have gone up in every full year since 2008, along with misdemeanor drug, weapon, and sex offenses.

The crime numbers for New York City kept by the state show that aggravated assault increased in Brooklyn in every year from 2008 to 2011, as did violent crime. The same goes for Queens.

This past summer, the city was afflicted by the same kinds of random episodes of horror seen every year when the heat rises and tempers unravel: the July 29 hammer attack in City Hall Park, which left a victim with a fractured skull; the murder outside the Empire State Building of a salesman by a disgruntled former co-worker and his subsequent shooting by police, who also wounded nine bystanders; the rampage by a mentally ill man in Times Square that led to police shooting him.

The July 21 slashing in midtown by two men of a third. The July 29 attack by six drunk young women on an elderly man who complained they were talking too loud on the downtown 6 train. The July 22 murder of four-year-old Lloyd Morgan, who was hit by a stray bullet near his Bronx home. The July 29 shooting of six, including a two-year-old girl, in Brownsville. The night at Rucker Park in upper Manhattan when a gunman shot five people. The stabbings at the West Indian Day Parade in Brooklyn. The September 10 slashing of two people by a woman on a rampage at a subway station in Jamaica, Queens.

Between July 2 and 8, 77 people were shot across the city. On the Fourth of July weekend alone, seven people were murdered, and 21 were shot.

The NYPD has earned praise for its computerized crime-fighting strategy known as CompStat, so why does it seem that the city has hit a turning point in 2012? What has changed?

Is it the stubbornly bad economy and the 10 percent unemployment rate? Is it the fact that the NYPD has shrunk by 6,000 officers since 2001? Is it that the NYPD's counterterrorism strategies are pulling too many cops out of their home precincts? Has the controversy over alleged manipulation of the crime statistics forced precinct commanders to more accurately report their numbers? Are we taking it easier on criminals? Or is the reason more elusive, a change in attitudes among people involved in crime?

The Bloomberg administration has yet to take a hit over this increase, and Police Commissioner Kelly's approval numbers remain high. The most recent Quinnipiac poll showed Kelly with a 64 percent approval rating among New Yorkers—a rating that has remained constant throughout the year.

In July, the mayor declared that the city doesn't need more police officers and said he doubted more cops would further reduce the murder rate. He also denied the city was in the middle of a crime wave after the rash of shootings between July 2 and 8.

"When we came into office, we reduced the size by 4,000 or 5,000, and we've maintained that for 10 years, and every year, we've brought crime down," Bloomberg told reporters. "What'd I miss here?"

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