Despite a two percent drop in overall crime citywide, New York City has already seen 267 murders this year — and is on track to reach more than 300 in 2019.
Police officials, led by outgoing Commissioner James O’Neill, and Mayor Bill de Blasio presented the numbers during the latest Compstat report in Brooklyn on Wednesday.
Chief of Detectives Dermot Shea, who will take over for O’Neill at the end of the month, found himself in the hot seat because his office is investigating several major homicides, including the fatal shooting of 14-year-old Aamir Griffin on a basketball court in October.
Shea pointed out that of the 29 murders this past month, eight were part of two separate incidents, including four found dead at a gambling hall on Utica Avenue on Oct. 12 and the other four in gang related violence in the Bronx. He attributed the increase in homicides to rising gang and narcotics violence.
Shootings were also up 4.7 percent, from 597 during the same period in 2018 to 625 shootings this year. Of those shootings, there was a 13.1 percent spike in crime in NYCHA housing. Most notable was the shooting at the Old Timers Day event in Brownsville in which 12 people were shot and one was killed.
“It’s a small percentage of the population that is responsible for these crimes,” Shea said. “The uptick is in shootings is related to narcotics and gang related violence and we are addressing it.”
Several shootings, including one in which a teen girl was shot in the shoulder, “seem to all be related to gang disputes and it is the same individuals involved,” according to Shea.
He indicated that arrests for homicides were also up and they were making progress in their investigations, though the Griffin murder is said to be difficult as the video evidence is “murky at best.”
“There are only a few people who are committing most of these shootings an they are the most violent,” Shea conceded.
Chief of Crime Control Strategies Lori Pollack, however, said they are optimistic that they can keep homicides under 300 for the year, however. There were 259 reported murders in all of 2018.
De Blasio said he believes that the city is “substantially safer and stronger” and there are some people who have “unfairly portrayed the city differently.”
Only two weeks ago, Governor Andrew Cuomo claimed that subway crime had “dramatically increased,” a charge which O’Neill refuted. President Donald Trump also has bashed New York City as “crime ridden.”
In addition to the increase in murders, officials noted that car thefts have also increased. Chief Shea said the increase can be attributed to people “leaving their keys in the ignition and running, or having the fob to close to the car for thieves to take advantage.”
This past month, a car was snatched in Canarsie with a 6-year-old boy still strapped in his car seat. The car was later recovered off Linden Boulevard, having been abandoned by the thief and the boy was unharmed.
“In the 1980s and ’90s, you would never leave your car unattended while running, especially not with a child in the car,” de Blasio said.
O’Neill, who will be leaving to join Visa as a senior vice president in the fraud division, said one of the answers to crime is having more community centers where the youth can be safe.
“There needs to be more positive places to go for youth, places to exercise, do homework in a safe place,” O’Neill said. “Not to have nothing to do and then do the things that get them in trouble. This center belongs to you and you can depend on it.”