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

In an interview with the Voice, City Councilman Peter Vallone, the chair of the public safety committee, countered: "The mayor says murder is down, so what's he missing? He's missing the fact that crime in every borough is up, the first time that this has happened in 20 years."

Vallone's theory on the crime increase involves a combination of two factors: "fewer police officers and more criminals," he says. There are fewer than 35,000 police officers today, compared to 41,000 in 2001, which puts uniformed strength closer to the level it was before federal funding back in 1992 allowed for a large hiring program.

"The outer-borough precincts are staffed at about half the levels they were in 2001," Vallone says. "And those who are assigned are often on ceremonial duty, parade duty, baby-sitting Occupy Wall Street, guarding any number of terror locations. They are rarely actually patrolling their neighborhoods. I've raised this with Commissioner Kelly, and he does not disagree. I've raised it with the mayor, and he believes we have enough cops. It's an area where we vehemently disagree."

Last year, Tayshana Murphy of the Grant Houses—a promising basketball player—was shot and killed.
C.S. Muncy
Last year, Tayshana Murphy of the Grant Houses—a promising basketball player—was shot and killed.
West Harlem has seen renewed violence and feuding between the Grant and Manhattanville public housing complexes.
C.S. Muncy
West Harlem has seen renewed violence and feuding between the Grant and Manhattanville public housing complexes.

Vallone places part of the blame in a surprising place: drug-law reform.

For years, lawmakers and activists have pushed to reform New York's Draconian Rockefeller drug laws, wanting the state to follow the lead of others that direct more offenders into drug treatment rather than into prison. As part of that reform, in 2009, the legislature and then-governor David Paterson gave judges more authority to send nonviolent offenders to drug treatment.

But Vallone says that move had an unintended consequence: Cases are taking longer to resolve, and offenders remain on the street longer.

"People going to jail for drugs is down, and people going for treatment is down," he says. "A dealer can go in for his fifth arrest and still get treatment. There is no limit on the number of arrests. That is a huge drain on police resources, and these cases clog the court system."

Vallone thinks things will get worse. "I don't see a change in the Albany laws; I don't see an increase in cops coming; and I see other problems on the horizon," he says.

Special Narcotics Prosecutor Bridget Brennan tells the Voice it's true that the number of people incarcerated on drug charges has dropped, and the length of their sentences is significantly shorter. More defendants are eligible for probation, when they would not have been in the past.

In addition, the number of people in drug-treatment programs in the city has declined, too. Brennan says that in 2004 her office put 384 people in treatment. Last year, the number was just 84. Because they are not facing certain jail time, defendants are not choosing drug treatment as an alternative to prison the same way they used to.

Moreover, people convicted of second-tier felonies are now eligible for the six-month Shock program, when in the past they would not have qualified—a fact that once again puts criminals back on the street faster.

Gabriel Sayegh, New York director of the Drug Policy Alliance, which fought the Rockefeller laws for a long time, says it's ridiculous to tie the crime increase to the repeal of those laws.

"That's kind of like saying the weather is getting colder because people are running their air conditioners with the windows open and ignoring the fact that fall is coming," he says. "If they are correct, then how do they explain the crack epidemic in the 1980s? We had the laws then, and that didn't stop it. Crime was going up and down over the decades without any relationship to those laws."

Sayegh said the bad economy was more to blame for the increase in crime than anything else. "We've been in a fairly serious recession for years," he says.

As for Vallone, he says the councilman is ignoring the facts, and as for Brennan, he claims she was "upset she was no longer in control of the process."

Brennan, a longtime prosecutor who was closely involved in the Dub City case, is concerned about what she sees as a shift in attitude or perception among people involved in crimes. She partially attributes the bump in the crime numbers to this shift.

"My sense of things is that defendants are just more emboldened than I have seen in quite a while," she says. "That there are not the same consequences for criminal behavior that there were even 10 years ago. If the sense is that you're not going to face serious consequences, more people are going to step out of line."

Brennan says she bases this observation on remarks made by defendants. "We pick it up a lot in jail conversations," she says. "The attitudes are what will cause crime to spike. It's all about perception. And then the perception spreads and grows. That's what concerns me."

In the Dub City case, and another similar takedown in Brooklyn, Brennan says the criminal activity wasn't about getting rich off drugs or holding drug-dealing territory, like it was in the 1990s. It was more about vengeance and settling scores, and that is almost more disturbing.

"The drugs aren't the centerpiece of the activity," she says. "If it was about drugs, there at least would be some rationality to it. So you had this wanton and reckless gunplay and no regard for the bystanders. I have gotten the sense that these young people act like they are in a game, like a video game, where they are just firing at obstacles. There's just a real, real recklessness and disregard for human life, which is totally frightening."

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23 comments
capitoldach
capitoldach

This is what happens when you disarm law abiding citizens. Only criminals have the guns and now have free reign. So sad I see California following this liberal catastrophe.

KareemG
KareemG

"It is worse, consistently worse," says Sarah Martin, the president of the tenant council at the Grant Houses. "It's an increase in gang activity. There are a lot more gangs. There's nothing for kids to do with their time." I think this was the most important thing said, two days ago my aunt was robbed right on her corner 5 A.M. jogging. For thirty years she been moving how she wants to anytime anywhere in Flatbush. (the manhunt continues) Yeah I agree crime has dropped in the last 15 years, but my city has gotten more ridiculous, people dying for Ipods and the wrong color, 20 years ago someone was murdered for shady business, drug dealers and adult Gangsters, everyone wants to be a fucking gangster at 14, i wanted to be Micheal Jordan, but me personally was afforded more than most i seen a lot more of what life has to offer than my friends from around my way in Brooklyn I fucked up  and still continue I've dug half a  hole for myself, but certain friends I've came across were just given a shit seat on the plane of life, wrong hood, wrong school, wrong coach wrong, wrong day, wrong time..forgive my grammar I got my GED in prison when i was nineteen second highest score in the jail to some genius kid from Albany who brought a gun to school. OPEN YOUR FUCKING EYES NEW YORK THOSE ARE FUCKING CHILDREN, YES VERY BIG AND VERY SCARY LOOKING BUT KIDS, GIVE THEM SOMETHING TO DO OPEN THERE EYES, FROM BELOW I'VE SEEN TALENT SLIP THOUGHT THE LOOSE HANDS OF HIS OR HER COMMUNITY IF IT'S EVEN THERE'S IN THE FIRST PLACE.

liteedge52
liteedge52

If criminals were afraid that they may find an armed citizen, we'll you get the picture

liteedge52
liteedge52

Because this is more failed liberal progressive policies, just like in California.  Failed ideas, Failed policies 

Benedictine
Benedictine

At the same time crime was decreasing in NYC, upstate cities experienced an influx of new residents from NYC, and crime surges. Crime was never reduced, just moved around. I personally think there's a cause/effect relationship between the loss of jobs to foreign countries and increased violent crime. Not that people are stealing because they are hungry, but that large numbers of young men idle often leads to violent behavior. The drug laws don't help either. People who got locked up for minor drug offenses brought the prison culture back to the community with them, and we are going to be seeing the after effects of that for a long time. 

I also believe a lot of programs designed to help are counter-productive. What have politicians such as Bloomberg done for the working class in NYC? He seems to be trying to make NY a gated community, but he waited too long, and now he would be fencing some of the problem people IN.

Speaking of crime, when is somebody going to make it illegal to use taxpayer money to cover up sex crimes committed by legislators?

 

MrMaG254
MrMaG254

@AvenueP its tucking season all around...that's why i'm gonna keep my lil' Samsung flip phone. cats looking for a reason to start thieving.

MrMaG254
MrMaG254

@AvenueP its the Beats By Dre and iPhone snatchings! they better watch those "how to" vids you putting out. and chain snatching is back...

Dmorris
Dmorris

It's the GANGS Stupid. ITGS. The problem is GANGS and Guns in New York City and that was largely ignored in this article. Ask a teen how many gangs can they name in their school. Bloods, Crips, Gangster Disciples, MS 13, Patria, DDP. I assure every kid in certain schools can name more that 6 and perhaps a dozen gangs operating in and around their schools. Ask them if their family members are gang related. WTF, why is the media and Bloomberg refusing to acknowledge that gangs are destroying a generation of young people in this city. Kids are scared, communities are being ravaged, youngsters are dying and innocents are being victimized at ever increasing rates.

I have no respect for politicians and reporters who will not stand up for the young people in this city. It is criminal for the Mayor, Police department and reporters to ignore the death of a generation of young people in this city. Where are the reports on school crime. I taught school in NYC and crimes are not reported and if they are reported the principal will get in trouble and lose their job.

Cowardly Education Reporters who go in and out off the schools and report nothing are criminals guilty of negligence.

Some brave reporter for the Voice can get a Pulitzer Prize - the title of the story is simple

Crime and Gangs in New York City Public School - How to graduate without getting slashed, robbed and raped.

 

Reporters used to have principles, they used to seek the truth. Today they just want to keep their job and not run afoul of politicians with connections in the Media business.

To quote Mayor Bloomberg to a reporter who asked him an unpleasant question about term limits -

YOU DISGUST ME.

attnl
attnl

Crime is up because we decreased incarceration rates while paradoxically making more and more drugs and other substances illegal.

Convicts get out of prison and go right back to robbing to fund addictions or dealing to make quick money.

Legalize drugs so criminals aren't attracted to getting rich off violent street deals and addicts can get cheap drugs that aren't sold at artificially inflated, black market costs.

awinston
awinston

@KPCCrina911 just as soon as they got a year's worth of non-juked stats...

The_Yeti_Knows
The_Yeti_Knows

This wouldn't happen if the city issued sock puppets to all its taxpayers in a variety of characters.... I could go in for an XL Condaleeza Rice and Oprah in a two headed beast variety.... make a hell of a TLC reality series too if you ask me.

gold
gold

The crime rate went down because there is no federal parole and NY State got tough on gun crime so that perps went away for a long time - long time. Multi offenders with prior time got lots of time.  Crimials are usually repeat offenders, now they don't get out as fast.  Thus, crime is down all over the country.  Younger criminals, gangs, are getting bigger and younger  crime will be back, and up a bit.  Not to worry.  Once they are in the "system," they will be burned out and on psyche drugs which is form of lobotomy.  Cali had to let perps out - overcrowding.  NY dos not have the problem.  It costs a lot to house prisoners - there are other solutions that should be considered; much cheaper.  But it does keep crime down by keeping perps off the streets.  Best regards to VV readers.

EdKollin
EdKollin

The streets and subways feel more menacing; far from 1970-1992 but a noticeable difference from let's say 5 years ago.  An issue not discussed in the otherwise fine article is we are close to 20 years removed from the “bad old days”.  People under 30 plain do not remember saying “be safe” when departing work and that fear of what you will find on the way to and when you got home, whole areas boarded up, and burnt down.   These memories have faded for those who do remember.  Faded also is moral outrage against the regular taking by force of the spoils of years of honest work if not life and limb.  This natural laziness is the disease and less police, emboldened attitude among the criminals are symptoms.   The economy probably is a factor but the city’s economy was also pretty bad and the police and other civil services even more decimated in the wake of 9/11 but crime declined. The “bad old days” were 11 years less in the rear view mirror and the city unified and determined   

sweetupdown
sweetupdown

@villagevoice Big shocker - less cops, more people without housing, higher unemployment. This city expected what exactly?

dhventure
dhventure

Great article on a problem that is not only within NYC but throughout our Nation. City agencies across the country need to place a higher priority on "PROGRAMS INSTEAD OF POLITICS" and provide solutions at an earlier age. Instead of trying to reinvent the wheel just push it already rolls. 

Graham did an excellent job in covering the five boroughs and linking the problems associated with juvenile crime and its effect on society as a whole. Maybe now Bloomberg and Kelly along with NYCHA, DFYj and Department of Ed will correct the numbers, open the community centers and review the Stop Question and Frisk program - BRICCS Inc. 

msanders8718
msanders8718

 @liteedge52

 please the jails are full in the red states too the crooks do not care about the corny con/lib crap

AvenueP
AvenueP

@MrMaG254 I only have a Smart Beep alphanumeric pager...

liteedge52
liteedge52

 @Dmorris How easy is it to obtain a handgun and a conceal carry permit in NYC? Yhea I thought so. 

msanders8718
msanders8718

 @gold

 new yor exported a lot of the criminal trash to the cites upstate and down the eastern seaboard

capitoldach
capitoldach

New York has too many programs. What it needs is to end it's Nazi like police state. Follow the constitution and have communities take care of themselves. Instead of having a Nanny-State. I cannot believe that this has gone this far. I believe even less that the people are okay with this. If we start a program that erodes our rights what good is it? If we give our rights up to be safe what good is safety. If we destroy our freedom to protect us from those who "hate our freedom" who really wins in that scenario? I'm sure you have the best intentions in the world, byt these programs usually end up not only taking the power out of our hands, but make the situations worse.

MrMaG254
MrMaG254

@AvenueP lol yes! hit me on the payphone in 20 minutes...

 
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