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Rise in shootings forces NYPD to redeploy coronavirus resources, officials say

Terence A. Monahan, the NYPD's chief of department, talks about a major increase in shootings in the past month. Credit: NYPD

Faced with an explosion of gun violence in Brooklyn amid the coronavirus pandemic, NYPD commanders said they are pulling officers from social distancing detail and deploying them to parts of the borough and other places affected by the increase in shootings.

Despite an initial drop in major crimes immediately after the pandemic emergency measures started kicking in for New York City the week of March 12, shootings have increased in the past month to levels higher than at the start of the crisis, police statistics show.

From 145 shootings that week in March, the number of incidents rose to 276 citywide through May 17.

“Over the last 28 days, we have seen a large increase in shootings in Brooklyn, specifically the East Flatbush and Canarsie areas," NYPD Chief of Department Terence A. Monahan said in an interview with Newsday. "Brooklyn, as a whole, for the last 28 days was up to 30 from nine on shootings incidents.”

That is an increase of 233% for the borough, and the big driver has been gang violence, which appears to have reasserted itself as the pandemic has played out, Monahan said.

In a separate interview, NYPD Chief Michael LiPetri, head of crime control strategies, explained that for the week ending May 17, more than 40% of shootings were in Brooklyn. LiPetri noted that there were a number of felony assaults that week in which police officers and other government employees were victims.

The increase in violence prompted the NYPD to announce last week another Summer All-Out program, a seasonal initiative for the warm weather months in which officers assigned to desk jobs are temporarily assigned to high-crime precincts. The difference this year is that many officers previously assigned to social-distancing enforcement are being pulled from that duty and added to the Summer All-Out precincts, Monahan said.

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In a briefing last week, Mayor Bill de Blasio said 300 officers would be part of the Summer All-Out initiative in 10 commands, largely in Brooklyn and the Bronx.

The social-distancing task force will be greatly reduced, and officers will be mostly deployed to working in parks throughout the summer from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., officials said.

The NYPD has been active in making gun arrests — largely in Brooklyn — which saw 185 such busts out of 310 citywide in the past 28 days, or about 60%, police statistics show.

For officers, the big frustration in dealing with gun violence in Brooklyn is that, since March 12, about 78% of all gun arrests have resulted in defendants being released under their own recognizance without bail, a situation Monahan called “problematic.”

The percentage of gun suspects freed without bail is about 50% in the Bronx and 40% in Manhattan, he added. Holding gun arrests suspects pending trial would go a long way to reducing some of the gun violence Brooklyn has experienced, the chief said.

A spokesman for Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez said over the weekend that the office regularly asks for bail in firearms cases but that judges sometimes deny such requests from prosecutors.

The steady increase in violence seen in recent weeks during the mandated stay-at-home directives of the government prompted one former NYPD chief to express concern about approaching warmer weather.

“If this is what it is like now, what is it going to be when things open up?” the chief asked.

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