Crime drops across New York City as spread of coronavirus continues

Photo by Lloyd Mitchell

Overall crime fell in every borough on the streets, in the transit system and public housing by 4.2 percent as the coronavirus has kept people home and closed businesses, police officials say.

From March 12 through March 31, crime fell even further, providing a silver lining of the COVID-19 pandemic. Among the crimes that have dropped are murders, down 25 percent (12 versus 16) – robberies are down 10 percent (551 versus 612), and grand larcenies are down 37 percent (1,334 versus 2,115).

Despite the drop this month, the city is still experiencing a 12.4 percent increase in overall crimes for the first quarter of 2020 (22,949 compared to 20,410), not including misdemeanors.

The shift from the time the city declared a state of emergency is clear according to the NYPD: From March 1 through March 11, overall index crime increased by 27.8 percent (2,934 compared to 2,296) when compared to the same period a year ago. From March 12 through March 31, overall index crime decreased by 19.9 percent (3,740 compared to 4,670) when compared to the same period in 2019.

Some crimes are continuing in the city as several shootings occurred over the weekend including a man shot in his car in East Flatbush and another man shot in the leg in Bedford Stuyvesant. However, fewer people have been shot as a result of fewer people being on the streets and social distancing is keep disputes at a minimum.

Officials in the past have maintained that changes needed to occur in the criminal justice reforms as some people were committing crimes repeatedly after being released from custody. The NYPD and the mayor called from more discretion for judges to jail those who present a danger to the community, which has irked many criminal justice reformers. Legislation is pending that would make changes that some deem necessary, while reformers say it is “inappropriate at this time.”

While most crimes are down, the NYPD has refocused on domestic violence as families are huddled in their homes sheltering in place. This has caused some stress in homes and there have been several violent incidents, including one in Astoria, Queens over the weekend where a grandson killed his grandmother and himself.

NYPD officials say teams of committed domestic violence officers are working to take reports and check in on New Yorkers in all five boroughs amid this ongoing coronavirus crisis. Officers are conducting phone calls to supplant face-to-face visits, sharing safety plans and cell phone access with them and carefully setting code words for them to use as they survive in close quarters. Precinct cops are following up with victims to make sure both victims and their children are safe.

The NYPD is also focusing on hate crimes, especially those crimes that create the perception that Asian Americans were somehow responsible for coronavirus. There have been 11 cases where all the victims were Asian and targeted due to discrimination based on COVID-19. Seven people have been arrested linked to these incidents.

Year-to-date, through March 29, citywide hate crimes are down 20 percent (90 compared to 112).

Police officials also say ·year-to-date, through March 31, domestic violence crime is down 0.6 percent (2,809 compared to 2,826); and is down 15.3 percent (902 compared to 1,065) for the entire month of March; and is down 23.8 percent (539 compared to 707) over the two weeks from March 12 through March 31, compared to the same period last year.  Arrests in domestic violence crimes are down 15.6 percent (3,104 compared to 3,678) for the 28-day period ending March 29.

There were 56 shooting incidents in March 2019, compared to 56 shooting incidents in March 2020. The second half of the month was said to have experienced the biggest drop as people sheltered in place as a heightened awareness of the virus spread.

The drop in crime gives a much-needed reprieve to the NYPD as more than 17 percent of their personnel are on sick leave and more than 1400 uniformed and non-uniformed members have been found to be positive for COVID-19.

However, there are still some major crimes that investigators are focusing on, especially the recent arson fire aboard a train in Harlem that killed a transit worker.

“In times of crisis, the men and women of the NYPD rise up and give their all for those they serve,” said NYPD Police Commissioner Dermot Shea. “This is our proud history – whether on Sept. 11 and its aftermath, during Hurricane Sandy or through debilitating city blackouts – and this is how we are again responding in the face of this unprecedented public health emergency. We stand strong, on the front lines, to ensure a common good for all and to continue to relentlessly drive down crime, deliver justice for every crime victim and maintain a sense of safety we believe all New Yorkers deserve.”

This story first appeared on amny.com.