Violent crime fell across Long Island during the first half of 2020 but commercial burglaries skyrocketed in Nassau and Suffolk counties because businesses closed by coronavirus pandemic became targets, officials said.
Officials reported this week that overall major crime dropped 7.78% in Nassau and 1.7% in Suffolk County during the first half of 2020 compared to the first six months of last year.
"The cops never laid down during the COVID-19 pandemic," Nassau County Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder said in an interview Monday. "Our overall crime number, we’ve had record-low reductions in the last 12 years. We have constantly gone down every year."
Major crime dropped 7.78% in Nassau
Suffolk County Police Commissioner Geraldine Hart said her department worked hard to improve on the numbers despite a pandemic.
"This year more than any other has presented enormous challenges for all of us and our department is no exception," Hart said Tuesday morning during a news conference in Yaphank to unveil the newest crime statistics. "While maintaining record-setting numbers for 2019 would have been a success, we were not complacent." The counties include murder, rape, robbery, assault, burglary, stolen vehicles and grand larceny among major crimes.
Homicide and manslaughter cases dropped 30.8% in Suffolk
The number of homicide and manslaughter cases in Suffolk County dropped 30.8%, with nine reported during the first six months of this year compared to13 during the same period in 2019. The number of homicides in Nassau, meanwhile, declined from seven during the first half of 2019 to five during the same period this year.
Hart and Ryder said their police departments have been able to keep crime down in part by analyzing data and shifting resources to where they are needed.
"When you hit records, records either go one way, up or down, and they usually go up," Ryder said. "You can’t sustain that number all of the time. But we were able to do that."
In Suffolk, rape dropped more than 53%, from 32 during the first half of last year to 15 this year. Rape in Nassau fell from six during the first half of 2019 to five during the same period this year.
Residential burglaries fell 26% in Suffolk County during the first half of the year, from 269 in 2019 to 199 during the same period in 2020. Officials in Suffolk concluded the reduction was partly due to the fact more people were confined to their homes during the pandemic, keeping burglars away.
The numbers were slightly up in Nassau, where residential burglaries ticked up 3.82% during the first half of the year, from 131 in 2019 to 136 in 2020, statistics show.
Commercial burglaries spiked sharply during the first half of 2020, officials said, because so many businesses and offices were shut down during the worst months of the coronavirus pandemic. Hart said COVID-19 restrictions "presented opportunities for criminals."
Commercial burglaries jumped more than 40% in Nassau and nearly 50% in Suffolk
In Nassau County, commercial burglaries jumped more than 40% from 137 during the first half of 2019 to 192 during the same period this year. In Suffolk, commercial burglaries increased nearly 50%, from 176 last year to 263 this year.
"When COVID hit, everybody stayed at home and nobody was in the businesses," Ryder said.
Hart said the department had beefed up foot and car patrols in business districts to combat the rise in commercial burglaries.
Ryder blamed the spike on the bail reform bill enacted earlier this year for the rise in commercial burglaries. He said burglars who may have been arrested and detained in the past were free to commit additional crimes earlier this year.
Vehicle thefts also jumped 16.5% in Nassau County, from 206 in the first half of 2019 to 240 during the same period this year. Vehicle thefts jumped 23% in Suffolk, from 365 to 449.
Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone warned the gains made in fighting crime could be wiped out if Suffolk and other local governments do not receive federal disaster aid soon.
Bellone said Tuesday that the county lost billions of dollars in revenue when the economy was shut down as a result of the coronavirus pandemic and that he will have to cut $20 million from the Suffolk police budget next year without federal assistance.
Bellone also called on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to pass a bill providing aid to small businesses and local governments as soon as possible.
"That failure is resulting in devastating cuts that in effect defund police, defund public safety, and public health, defund suburbia," Bellone said. "It is wrong and it is unacceptable."