NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio and NYPD Police Commissioner Dermot...

NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio and NYPD Police Commissioner Dermot Shea at their final joint briefing Wednesday. Credit: Ed Reed/Mayoral Photography Office

Mayor Bill de Blasio and NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea, in their final joint briefing Wednesday, touted New York City as the nation's safest large city but acknowledged a sharp spike in violent crime during the pandemic.

The outgoing leaders lamented that the rising violence cut into large reductions seen during a "policing nirvana" before the coronavirus hit.

In November, de Blasio said, homicides had a reduction of just over 17% compared with the same month in 2020. But the mayor said "challenges" remain as the month's major crime totals — driven by sharp rises in robberies and grand larcenies — climbed by more than 21%. Serious crimes for the year are up 3.4%, with increases in all categories except burglary, de Blasio said.

Since early 2020, street violence in the city has taken a marked turn for the worse. Shootings jumped 100% last year over 2019, and killings increased by more than 42%. So far, in 2021, shootings are up 2.5% over last year, and killings by 1.4%.

The mayor and Shea, both leaving their jobs on Dec. 31, took the opportunity at their last monthly briefing to point out that despite the steady rise in crime, there are positive signs within the statistics.

De Blasio said that after the NYPD launched an enhanced crime-fighting effort last spring, shootings and homicides actually declined.

"Since the Summer Initiative was implemented in May of this year, murder is down 12% compared to the same time frame, [in 2020]. Shootings are down 13% compared to the same time frame," de Blasio said, adding that other cities, like Los Angeles and Philadelphia, have also dealt with major spikes in violent crime.

Philadelphia Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw is reportedly being considered as Shea's successor.

NYPD statistics show that compared with five years ago, some crime categories, such as grand larceny and felonious assault, have decreased more than 11%. But homicides, rape and burglary showed varying increases. Shootings also have risen more than 56% compared with five years ago, the statistics show.

Still, Shea and de Blasio credited the power of community and precision policing, which focus on high-crime areas and individuals, as having driven crime down during the years before the pandemic, which Shea referred to as a "policing nirvana" of record low violence levels.

He said problems exacerbated by bail reform in early 2020 keep repeat offenders — particularly among teens — out on the streets to commit more crimes.

"The number of arrests that are made on youth in this city for a firearm is now 10 percent … of all the arrests we’re making, that is a jump up," Shea said. "So when we see a lot of good news, a lot of improvement that we’ve made, we know we have a lot of work to do."

As he has repeatedly done in the past, Shea called for small legislative fixes to laws on repeat offenders he said were hurting the city.

"It is small numbers of people that unfortunately are doing some harm to New Yorkers," Shea said. "But I have no doubt as we move forward that will be corrected."

Latest video