The pace of shootings in New York City cooled in the usually active summer months, according to the latest NYPD statistics, and police officials are giving partial credit for the drop to a special task force of detectives focused on violent areas of the city.
For much of this year, shootings were up from 2013 by nearly 13 percent, forcing NYPD Commissioner William Bratton to pull police officers from other assignments -- including desk jobs -- and spend more on overtime. Criminologists familiar with the NYPD said a sharp drop in stop-and-frisk activity likely contributed to the increased gunplay, a factor police are studying.
The latest NYPD data reveal that shootings have slowed, with the decline starting in the weeks before Labor Day. Through Sunday, there were 841 shootings this year, compared with 794 in 2013, an increase of just under 6 percent. Total shooting victims were 993, compared with 939 last year, according to the data.
Last week, Bratton told the City Council that the city had the fewest shootings for August on record.
One factor in the downward trend appears to have been the establishment of a violent-crime task force that brought together detectives who specialize in drug and gang investigations, NYPD spokesman Stephen Davis said.
The result, he said, has been the ability of the detectives to more quickly arrest people who might be prone to committing revenge shootings or prevent from them from becoming potential victims.
NYPD statistics show that 20 percent of shootings are gang-related but officials think the real number is actually 30 percent to 40 percent.
Those familiar with the NYPD's tactics said paying additional overtime for more officers is having the intended effect. What's less certain is the plan's long-term effectiveness, said former NYPD detective supervisor Joseph Giacalone.
"The overtime is keeping cops on the street which is suppressing crime," Giacalone said. "The question is how long can they keep it up and how long can they stop" the shootings. "There is a strong correlation between more cops and less crime."
Police data showed that only 13 percent of shootings were fatal, which Giacalone linked to improved emergency and medical care and city trauma centers.
The progress evidenced in the statistics is uneven, according to data. While some Bronx precincts showed declines and even no shootings last week, a few in north Brooklyn, notably the 63rd Precinct in Canarsie-Flatlands and the 69th Precinct in East New York, saw increases, data showed.
Homicides, which have only been counted consistently by the NYPD since the early 1960s, continue to run lower than last year, with 219 recorded through Sunday, compared with 239 in 2013, a decline of 8 percent, according to the data. Bratton has said the city could record fewer than 300 homicides this year, although at the current pace it is likely to come in at around 307.