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NYPD: Major crime down nearly 25% last week

NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea.

NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea. Credit: Howard Simmons

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Major crime in New York City declined by nearly 25% last week after stringent social distancing measures kicked in to control the coronavirus spread and officers made fewer arrests in many categories, the latest NYPD crime statistics show.

The drop in crime, which included an over 18% fall in burglaries and a decline of nearly 28% in grand larcenies, came as no surprise to some law enforcement officials and criminologists. Officials said the NYPD recorded similar crime drops in the period right after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks.

Using the week ending March 15 as a baseline, the city at that time recorded 1,770 major felonies such as homicides, burglary, rape and robbery. For the week that ended Sunday, the period in which Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced a series of escalating social distancing measures, including a prohibition on nonessential businesses having workers report to the office, the number of such crimes dipped to 1,337, a decline of 24.4%. Shootings also dropped by more than 30%. There was one homicide.

NYPD officials appeared to acknowledge that officers were using their best judgment in handling their jobs.

“Police officer are continuing to use their discretion as they work around the clock to ensure public safety,” NYPD spokeswoman Devora Kaye said.

“The men and women of the NYPD continue to address and adapt to crime conditions in real time and implement a range of strategies including precision policing, which keeps the department focused on the drivers or violence and disorder,” Kaye said.

Officers also appear to be pulling back on interfacing with the public by making fewer arrests and writing fewer traffic and other types of summonses, the data showed over the week period. For instance, gun arrests were down 36.7%, narcotics arrests dropped 42.5% and arrests for suspended licenses and other vehicle offenses down over 50%, according to the NYPD statistics.

“This gives new meaning to the term uncharted territory” in policing, said Eugene O’Donnell, a professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice.

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O’Donnell thinks that the decline in crime and the drop in arrests showed that the criminals, the public and police are afraid of unnecessary social contacts.

“How many people are taking it upon themselves not to report crimes?” O’Donnell asked rhetorically.

With the coronavirus crisis evolving, law enforcement experts were unclear what the longer term impact of the measures might be on crime. Overall, for the year to date, crime was still up 17% over the same period in 2019, a problem for police who were used to years of recent declines.

Retired NYPD Det. Sgt. Joseph Giacalone, who also teaches at John Jay, was concerned that with the return of warm weather, people would begin to ignore social distancing rules and crime again would increase.

Giacalone also was concerned about any marked increase in officers who test positive for the virus and are out.

As of Tuesday, 211 NYPD members are out with coronavirus, including 177 uniformed members.

After 9/11, Giacalone said the city saw a dramatic decrease in reported crime, something he attributed to the fact that many officers were doing recovery work at Ground Zero and not around to take reports from the public.

"This is only temporary," Giacalone said about the crime rate drop. "Warm weather is coming and you'll get more people outside, even under containment."

Major Crimes Data for New York City

Week ending March 15…Week Ending March 22…………..Difference

Murder………8……………………………1……………………………..-87.5%

Rape………….13………………………….15……………………………+15.3%

Robbery…….229……………………….210……………………………-8.2%

Fel. Assault….389…………………….318……………………………..-18.2%

Burglary………213…………………… 173……………………………..-18.7%

Gr. Larceny….775………………….…517……………………………..-27.6%

Auto Larceny…125………………… 103……………………………..-17.6%

Total…………….1,770………….…….1,337………………………….-24.4%

Source: NYPD

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