“We’re starting to see significant upticks in crime – particularly in violence. And it could get worse,” police commissioner Dermot Shea said.
Shea, in an earlier interview, linked the rise in shootings to the release of thousands of people from Rikers Island under a new bail law and measures meant to contain the spread of the coronavirus – albeit without providing data to support his claim.
The uptick in crimes, Shea said, may also be linked to the present hostile political climate that has put police operations under intense – and unfair – scrutiny.
“When you put those two factors together and now you add in an anti-police sentiment and new laws that do not help the police, it is a toxic, toxic environment,” Shea said, noting that authorities cannot be expected to keep people safe if they do not keep dangerous individuals off the streets.
Shea’s sentiment echoed that of NYPD Chief Terence Monahan, who said the violence was linked to a multitude of factors, including a sharp decrease in jail population because of the coronavirus pandemic and a measure that requires judges to release defendants awaiting trial on misdemeanors and nonviolent felonies.
Monahan, in a press briefing earlier this month, also said animosity toward law enforcement after the May 25 death of George Floyd while in the custody of Minneapolis police – as well as demonstrations calling for cuts in their budget – may have contributed to the spike in cases, noting that it has “emboldened” some people who believe “that cops can’t do anything anymore.”
“The sharp increase in shootings and violence in New York puts innocent people at risk and tears at the fabric of life in our city,” Shea said in a statement.
According to the New York Police Department, the spike in cases started in early June, which saw a total of 205 shooting incidents, or a 130 percent increase in cases from a year earlier. By July, the cases went up to 764, according to police data.
Other crimes have also increased, with burglaries and murder having gone up by 118.2 percent and 23.1 percent, respectively.
As noted by its residents, this spate of shootings, robberies, murders, burglaries and auto thefts, is reminiscent of New York City's situation during the 1970s and 1980s, during which crime and violence were widespread and whole neighborhoods were considered to be dangerous “no-go” zones – a situation that is said to have been the result of an unfortunate mix of a floundering economy and a reduction in the police force, as well as an increase in the number of street gangs and extremist organizations.
Mayor Bill de Blasio, in a statement, pointed to the currently closed courts as one reason for the spike in violent crimes, noting that dangerous individuals and elements must be tried in order to get them off New York’s streets.
“You can’t adjudicate the case until there’s a trial and that determines whether someone should be allowed to be on the streets or not,” de Blasio said, adding that only 50 percent of firearms charges have reached the point of indictments.
Mayor de Blasio and Commissioner Shea have since called for the city's five district attorneys, as well as New York state’s Chief Judge Janet DiFiore, to reopen the city's courts in order for the trials to fully resume.
In addition, Mayor de Blasio and Commissioner Shea also unveiled an "End Gun Violence Plan," as part of their promise to go “all-out” with curbing the sharp increase in shootings in order to prevent the city from sliding back into the bloody violence that characterized the city’s previous eras.
"The violence has to stop," Mayor de Blasio said. "It is not acceptable and we're going to beat it back."
Despite the steady rise in violence in the Big Apple, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said President Donald Trump will not send in federal officers into the city – at least for now.
According to Cuomo, while Trump had floated the idea of sending federal agents to New York in order to deal with the city’s crime problem, he was able to dissuade the president from doing so.
“I spoke to the president about it, said I was also concerned about the increase in crime in New York City and that people in New York City are also concerned about the increase in crime. I also said that at this point, I think that the situation can be managed by the state,” Cuomo said. (Related: Trump to deploy more federal officers to protect America’s cities: “The bloodshed must end!”)
Trump, in an earlier press conference, noted that Cuomo must stem the rising number of gun-related violence in New York City lest he step in and send troops of federal authorities to restore order the way he did with other cities such as Chicago, Portland, Albuquerque, Washington, D.C. and Kansas City.
"New York was up 348 percent – the crime rate. So the governor has to do something about it. And if the governor is not going to do something about, we'll do something about it," the President said.