Shootings in New York City are continuing a bloody upward trend, spiking by 40% so far in 2021 after a disastrous year in which gunfire climbed to levels not seen since 2006, according to NYPD statistics.
Police Commissioner Dermot Shea on Wednesday called the increase this year compared with the same period in 2020 a "concern." The rise in shootings comes despite a large jump in gun arrests so far in 2021 and with overall major crime significantly down.
In an interview on WPIX-11, Shea said gun arrests were up more than 60% this year, with more to come.
The latest statistics showed that through Feb. 28, there were 153 shootings in the city, compared with 110 in 2020, a 39.1% increase. Shooting victims totaled 166 compared with 125 in 2020, a jump of 33%. In 2020, there were more than 1,800 shootings. More than 1,500 people were struck by gunfire.
Homicides so far in 2021 are occurring at the same pace as 2020, which saw more than 450 by year's end.
"We are working with our partners in a particular borough in anticipation of pretty significant case work being done … a small number of people driving violence," Shea said on WPIX-11, indicating that a major gun case was soon to be announced.
Shea said law enforcement is hampered by state bail reform laws that, among other things, forbid state judges from considering the danger posed by a defendant when deciding whether to hold someone without bail.
"We are going to need a little help here … giving the judges the tools, through legislation, to be able to keep some pretty dangerous people off the street," the police commissioner said.
An upward trend in shootings is in contrast to the overall decrease in serious felonies so far this year. Since Jan. 1, the city has seen a drop of more than 23% in total major offenses — such as felonious assaults, robbery, homicide and rape — compared with 2020.
A year ago, just before the pandemic hit, serious crimes were up more than 20%, a trend that took Shea and others in law enforcement by surprise at the time. Last year’s increase was widely attributed to the bail reform law, which took effect Jan. 1, 2020 and eliminated the need for bail in many cases and led to the release of jailed suspects.
Earlier this week, Mayor Bill de Blasio applauded the overall drop in serious crime, although he didn’t mention the rise in shootings. He said the decrease was a sign that Shea’s strategies were working.
But some NYPD commanders are still uncertain about which strategies are best to deal with shootings. During a recent community meeting, Chief Jeff Maddrey, head of NYPD community affairs, noted that the use last year of violence interrupters — clergy and community activists who try to persuade people not to resort to violence — seemed to do little to quell the number of shootings.