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NYPD: Major crime down but spike in commercial burglaries a concern

An NYPD Community Affairs officer watches as Amazon

An NYPD Community Affairs officer watches as Amazon workers strike outside at Amazon's Staten Island warehouse in March. Credit: AFP via Getty Images / Angela Weiss

New York City major crimes continued to stay at relatively low levels last week, the third full week of social distancing restrictions, but the NYPD remains concerned about a spike in burglaries of closed businesses, officials said.

Overall serious felonies such as homicide, grand larceny, rape and robberies were down 36.7% for the week ending April 5 compared with the same period in 2019, NYPD officials said Monday of the latest police crime statistics. 

Since the week ending March 15, the period when Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo decreed his stay-at-home order, crime has plummeted by almost 40% and stayed at that level despite some modest increases through Sunday.

NYPD officials said they are facing continuing problems with commercial burglaries, which are adding to the stress faced by small-business owners who can’t open because of Cuomo’s restriction barring all but essential services from remaining open.

“While crime has gone down since the state of emergency was declared on March 12, we have seen some persistent areas of concern such as commercial burglaries,” an NYPD spokesman said. “As to those who prey on businesses already struggling with rent, no cash flow, layoffs and all the other pains of this crisis, when apprehended and convicted, they ought to bear the weight of the full extent of the law.”

Last week, burglaries — the NYPD didn’t differentiate in its data between residential and commercial — amounted to 219, an increase of 7.3% over the prior week. 

Richard Rosenfeld, a criminologist at the University of Missouri-St. Louis, agreed that commercial burglaries, as well as potential upticks in domestic violence, must be watched carefully in this time. While the NYPD data do not break out assaults attributed to domestic stress, felonious assaults generally were up 6.5% last week compared with the prior week.

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Speaking about the national crime picture, Rosenfeld said that with social isolation, domestic violence will be up across the country, something advocates have warned about for weeks.

With fewer drivers on the road, NYPD officers are writing dramatically fewer traffic tickets. Cops wrote 20,699 traffic summonses in the week ending March 15. For the week ending April 5, officers wrote 2,228 traffic summonses, a drop of 88%. The NYPD also wrote nearly 68% fewer parking tickets in that period.

Rosenfeld said the fewer summonses and parking tickets were no surprise. He also suggested cops are not engaging people when they can avoid it, practicing their own form of social distancing.

“We are in unchartered territory,” Rosenfeld said about the latest crime drop amid the COVID-19 pandemic. “The closest comparison is the Great Depression. Crime rates actually came down with the Great Depression.”

“Generally," Rosenfeld said, "I expect we will see crime continue to decline over the next month or so."

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