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NYPD: Teens are both perps and victims in upward robbery trend

NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea at a briefing on

NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea at a briefing on crime trends in Queens on Monday. Credit: Howard Simmons

Despite another record-low year in most serious crime, NYPD officials acknowledged Monday that a jump in robberies in 2019 was driven by teenagers who are not only perpetrators but, increasingly, the victims

NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea said during the annual year-end briefing that robberies had risen 3.1% in 2019 compared with the prior year, while a number of serious crimes had seen decreases. Overall, New York City saw a decline of just under 1% for all major crimes, such as homicide and burglary, to the lowest level in the modern era of police record keeping.

But Shea and other NYPD voiced concern over the robbery increase and its impact on the youth of the city.

“When we see our robbery increase in New York City this year, it is really concerning,” Shea told reporters during the briefing at the police academy in College Point, Queens, with Mayor Bill de Blasio. “It is very, very apparent it’s kids that are victims, it’s kids that are committing these robberies.”

In other crime patterns, anti-Semitic hate crimes were up 26% to 234 from 186 in 2018. Anti-Semitic acts accounted for 55% of all hate crimes in the city last year, although Chief Michael LiPetri, head of the office of crime strategies, noted that the overwhelming majority of the offenses involved swastikas and other graffiti, but not assaults. 

Overall, hate crimes were up 20%, police records showed.

Explaining the robbery trend, LiPetri said that 29% of the robbery arrests were of suspects under the age of 18.

"That’s concerning,” LiPetri said.

Since June, the victims of robberies “have just skyrocketed with teenaged victims,” noted LiPetri, adding it is ‘youths robbing other youths.”

Neither Shea nor LiPetri offered reasons for the trend. But LiPetri said the department was trying to work with probation, prosecutors and other agencies to deal with the problem.

Cops have identified almost 80 teens under the age of 18 who had been arrested three or more times in 2019 for robbery, said LiPetri.

The robbery statistics for teens resonate at a time when New Yorkers read about the case of Barnard College freshman Tessa Majors, who was slain last month during a robbery in Morningside Park, allegedly by three youths ranging in age from 13 to 14 years old. The 13-year-old is scheduled to go on trial in Family Court in March on felony murder and other charges. The other two teens have not yet been charged.

During the briefing, Chief of Detectives Rodney Harrison said that the investigation into the Majors case was ongoing and that cops were still awaiting the results of DNA and other tests.

In other crime trends in 2019, Shea said homicides had gone up 7.8% to 318 from 295 while shootings increased 2.9% to 776 from 754.

But Shea noted that those two crime categories were coming off all-time lows in the prior two years.

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