Last month looks like the safest January for New York City since the NYPD began CompStat record-keeping in 1994, and Police Commissioner William Bratton will drive that point home at a special news conference with Mayor Bill de Blasio on Wednesday.
While other major U.S. cities struggle with serious crime increases — particularly Chicago, where homicides soared 80 percent last month — Bratton will report that killings dropped 45 percent in January and shootings were down 33 percent in the five boroughs at the news conference at NYPD headquarters.
“That is a very significant way to start the new year,” Bratton said Monday during a radio interview. “New York is doing very well in terms of overall crime, particularly in terms of serious crime.”
“What is important about January is what is not happening,” said Professor Franklin Zimring of the University of California Berkeley School of Law, referring to the low crime numbers. “To the extent there is any news, it is good.”
Bratton and Chief of Department James P. O’Neill also have pushed anti-gang measures. To underscore those efforts Bratton and Brooklyn District Attorney Kenneth Thompson are expected to announce the roundup of several violent gang members who allegedly terrorized some neighborhoods.
Bratton is eager to tout the positive crime news as the city experiences a spike in slashings, which have garnered much media coverage.
“The six instances we have had are all independent of each other,” Bratton said. “Last year we had three. That did not attract any media attention.”
“This is New York,” Bratton said. “Occasionally the media and the police get focused on a series of incidents.”
For de Blasio, the good start crime-wise in the city comes after another low year in 2015 and is one bright spot in the challenges he has faced in other policy areas.
Of the serious crime categories, only felonious assaults have seen a significant increase of 17 percent over last year. Overall major felonies are down about 1 percent from 2015.
Police experts think the recent blizzard may have contributed to the drop-off in some crimes, such as auto thefts, after the new year.
Though the city has started 2016 in good position, it is too early to make any predictions about crime for the rest of the year.
“This is a situation where if the weather warms up, crime statisticians run and hide,” Zimring said.