Keeping crime on Long Island in perspective
Long Island is enduring a crime wave.
Long Island has long been, and continues to be, the safest large metropolitan region in the United States. Nassau County has repeatedly been named as the safest county in the entire nation in recent years. Yet the crime wave is real, and residents are rightfully concerned, though it’s unfortunate when that trepidation grows into unnecessary panic.
The truth is that violent crime on Long Island is rare, particularly outside a few challenging communities, but property crimes have soared.
In 2019, there was one catalytic converter stolen in Nassau County. Last year, 2,021 were, fueling an increase in grand larcenies from 3,210 in 2021 to 4,584 last year. In Suffolk, 819 were stolen through August of this year, up from 289 in all of 2021, part of an increase in grand larcenies from 12,003 in 2021 to 14,163.
And it’s not just car parts. Motor vehicle thefts, largely stable in Nassau for five years, rose 75% from 2021 to 2022. In Suffolk, motor vehicle thefts are up 15% year over year, and are 50% higher than in 2018.
Burglaries, too, climbed in both counties compared to 2021, and shoplifting has businesses, police, and shoppers concerned and furious. In Suffolk, shoplifting grand larcenies were up 94% over the same period last year. Nassau officials say shoplifting has surged there as well, though changes in how the crimes are counted make comparisons difficult. Experts say a variety of factors, from a shift to opaque reusable shopping bags to the fact that members of shoplifting rings are being released without bail, contribute to the surge.
But violent crime?
The nation's approximately 22,900 killings in 2021 puts the overall homicide rate at about 6.9 per 100,000 people. But in Nassau there were just 10 such killings in 2021, and that dropped to six in 2022, for a rate of 0.4 per 100,000 people. In Suffolk, there were 32 such killings in 2021, and that dropped to 27 in 2022, or 1.77 per 100,000 people. Rapes are similarly rare, as are aggravated assaults.
Each county spends close to $1 billion a year on police. That, combined with a largely law-abiding populace and, experts say, housing so expensive it’s hard for low-level criminals to live here, makes it an unusually safe area.
The wave of property crimes is inexcusable, and the police commissioners of both counties are adamant that they are attacking that, along with illicit and deadly drug sales. Nassau police recently arrested eight suspects alleged to be part of two South American-directed crime rings, one burglarizing homes and the other robbing stores, and that's a good start.
Residents should be cautious about protecting their cars, homes and themselves. But they should also have the peace of mind that comes from understanding just how safe Long Island is.
MEMBERS OF THE EDITORIAL BOARD are experienced journalists who offer reasoned opinions, based on facts, to encourage informed debate about the issues facing our community.