New York City is doing better than most big cities when it comes to crime, but persistent problems with violence in minority neighborhoods here mirror a troubling increase in homicides and shootings across the country, NYPD Commissioner William Bratton said Tuesday.
Fresh from a Monday meeting in Washington, D.C., of major city police chiefs, Bratton told reporters at police headquarters that despite recent upticks in killings and shootings the city was on its way by the end of the year to still being "the safest large city in the United States."
The media, Bratton said, shouldn't be so quick to focus on the weekend's shootings, in which three people were killed and more than a dozen others wounded, as a bellwether for the return of bad times. Shootings are actually down this year, while killings have gone up about 9 percent, he said.
At a separate news conference, Mayor Bill de Blasio echoed Bratton's remarks, saying: "I'd say look at the facts and stop at the hysteria. At this point, overall crime is down approximately 6 percent from last year."
Bratton said it was unclear what was driving the increase of violence in some major cities, notably Baltimore, Chicago and Milwaukee. But he said the impact was being heavily felt in minority communities, where poverty, poor school systems and inadequate housing remain issues.
"The commonality throughout the country where they are experiencing the most significant crime, it has been in those communities with those issues," Bratton said. "What they are experiencing is effectively blacks on blacks, Latinos on Latinos and the population that has seen the least set of issues is Caucasian."
Some of the violence was "unfathomable," said Bratton, referring to the recent shootings.
Richard Rosenfeld, a noted criminologist at the University of Missouri-St. Louis, addressed the conference and told Newsday Tuesday that some cities were experiencing a problem with synthetic marijuana -- something Bratton called "weaponized marijuana" -- which police said is causing problems with aggressive, delusional users. But Rosenfeld said that while some cities were clearly experiencing an increase in violent crime, it was unclear how far that reached around the country.
Part of the problem in getting a handle on the national picture was that there is no way to get timely crime statistics, Rosenfeld said. "We need much more timely crime data, there is no excuse any more for waiting," Rosenfeld said.
Rosenfeld said police chiefs also discussed on Monday the so-called "Ferguson effect," the possible pulling back of cops from proactive policing after the police shooting death last year of Michael Brown. But other than in Baltimore, which has a surge in homicides and shootings, it was unclear if cops were disengaging from policing, Rosenfeld said.
With Emily Ngo