The city’s long, hot summer of 2018 turned out to have been cooler when it comes to serious crime.
July and August were the safest summer months in modern city history in terms of homicides and shooting incidents, officials said Tuesday.
Despite an increase in killings last month, the combined total for homicides in July and August came in at 48 this year, compared with 55 for the same period in 2017, a year that produced a record low for homicides in the modern era of record keeping, according to police data.
A drop in August shootings to 76, a decrease of 8.4 percent from August 2017, also helped pull the violence quotient down, said Chief Lori Pollock, head of crime control strategies for the NYPD.
Speaking to reporters at the NYPD’s monthly crime briefing, Police Commissioner James O’Neill said that when counting the summer months as being from Memorial Day through Labor Day, the city saw one fewer homicide and 4 fewer shootings than the same period last year.
Summer has traditionally been a time of increased violence in the city and although there are signs the drop in serious crime may be reaching its limit, this year still bucked the trend, officials said, thanks to a seasonal deployment of extra cops from desk jobs to street patrols. Pollock said cops are watching out for so-called “harbinger crimes,” including disorderly groups, noise complaints, illegal gambling, and harassment, which can all escalate to shootings and retaliation.
Mayor Bill de Blasio said the city continued to match or exceed many of the records from 2017, a record low year for serious crimes such as murder, robbery and grand larceny.
“2017 was a miraculous year in the eyes of many. It was supposed to be a year that was unbeatable,” de Blasio said at the news conference. “Right now, in a number of categories, the NYPD is actually showing that the unbeatable year can be beaten.”
De Blasio and O’Neill have extolled monthly crime declines for much of 2018. But the decline may be hitting a floor. As of Sept. 2, homicides were actually higher, at 197 compared with 192 in the same period of 2017. Shootings last year were down by a double digit percentage ; this year they’re down about 3.2 percent citywide. Overall serious crimes were also down 1.2 percent; through most of 2017 they showed declines of between 4 percent and 5 percent.
Pollock noted that rapes in August continued to increase by 24.4 percent over 2017, a trend seen in previous months, with 90 percent of the suspects known to their victims.
Pollock also noted that a small increase of 1.5 percent in grand larcenies for August was attributable to a rash of mailbox “fishing” in which mail is stolen from mailboxes. A slight increase of 3.9 percent in car thefts was attributable to people leaving cars running, she said.