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Shootings rise in New York, color perceptions of city’s safety

The first three months of this year have also seen an increase in crimes like burglary, robbery and grand theft compared to the same periods in 2020 and 2021, although experts warn against short-term comparisons, in especially during the statistics distorting pandemic.

New York isn’t the only city struggling to control crime amid the pandemic. In Houston, at least 473 homicides were recorded last year; New York only saw 15 more, with almost four times the total population. And just 90 minutes south, Philadelphia saw 559 murders in 2021, in a city of just 1.5 million people.

But new concerns have prompted warnings of a return to New York’s ‘bad old days’, when it was many years ago with more than 2,000 murders. For some, the resemblance between the time periods lies not in the crime or the data, but in the coverage.

“It reminds me of the 1990s, in the sense that every incident of violence becomes a major news story,” said Jeffrey Butts, director of the Center for Research and Evaluation at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice. “Some of these things are just shocking. But it’s also important to remember that these things have always happened and are still fairly rare incidents. But they stick with you for so long and stay in your memory.

Certain types of crime have increased dramatically since the start of the pandemic.

Shootings are twice as high as in the years before the pandemic, and the burden falls primarily on black and Latino neighborhoods. More than 1,800 shootings have been reported each year for the past two years, after falling to less than 900 in 2018. Attacks on Asian New Yorkers have increased, with more than 130 hate crime complaints filed with the police last year, after only one reported in 2019.

The subway system has also become more dangerous, with assaults and other major crimes increasing dramatically throughout the pandemic, when adjusted for weekday ridership below 60% of prior levels. And all kinds of scary events like aggressive encounters on the street or harassment on a train are not easy to track.

Still, Mr Adams and Commissioner Sewell have made a host of changes to the police department, including the reincarnation of undercover crime units disbanded in 2020 following allegations of brutality and excessive force. The new units have been redesigned to include constitutional rights and de-escalation training, and officers now wear a modified uniform instead of street clothes, the police department said.


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