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NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea says police make progress stemming shooting violence

New York City Police Commissioner Dermot Shea during

New York City Police Commissioner Dermot Shea during a crime briefing in February. Credit: Corey Sipkin

New York City Police Commissioner Dermot Shea said on Monday there are signs the police are making some progress in stemming a bloody tide of gun violence, just as New York City recorded over 1,000 shooting victims for the first time since 2016.

“There is still work to do,” Shea said during an interview on NY1. “The last couple of weeks we have seen some progress and hope …. there are still far too many [shootings] to be frank.”

The latest NYPD statistics showed that for the week ending August 9, the city recorded 41 shootings for the seven-day period, a drop of seven incidents from the previous week. But shooting victims increased to 57 from 54 in the prior week.

For the year-to-date, shootings now total 793, an increase of 76.2% over 2019. Victims total 1,017, a rise of 84.6% from the prior year. In 2016 shooting victims for the entire year amounted to 1,182 from 998 incidents. As the current pace, the city might hit a level of shootings and victims last reached in 2014 when Mayor Bill de Blasio took office.

The added gun violence has led to a nearly 30% increase in city homicides in 2020 to 244 from 189 in the same period for 2019.

One positive sign for Shea was an increase in gun arrests. Chief Michael LiPetri, head of crime control strategies agreed, noting to Newsday that in the last four weeks gun arrests have continued to climb, with 71 arrests last week resulting in 50 firearms being recovered. Seven of the top 10 precincts accounting for over 50% shootings are in Brooklyn, LiPetri said.

Shea believes the numbers are moving in the right direction. But others in law enforcement maintain that those using guns are doing so with a sense of impunity because of the coronavirus effect on courts.

Paul DiGiacomo, head of the Detective’s Endowment Association, said that criminals with guns are also emboldened because they believe the police won’t confront them because of the so-called “Diaphragm” law passed recently by the city council. That measures exposes police to potential criminal liability if they kneel, stand or in any way compress a suspect’s diaphragm during an arrest. Last week a coalition of police unions filed suit to stop the law.

“They have lost their fear of apprehension, prosecution and conviction,” said Richard Aborn, head of the Citizens Crime Commission, about those using guns on the street.

Aborn said the root of the problem is a lack of coordinated response on shooting and guns from police, district attorneys, City Hall and the courts. 

Officers have to work with along communities to deal with the gang connection in shootings, Aborn said. 

While Shea and de Blasio have touted community-based programs and hot spot policing to deal with shootings, their recommendations have not led to quick reductions in shootings, police statistics show.

LiPetri said the NYPD has been teaming lately with local and federal prosecutors to bring gun cases.

“We want swift and certain action with violent crime,” LiPetri said.       

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