Mihir Zaveri, New York Times, September 2, 2020
The steep rise in gun violence that has rattled New York City and intensified the debate over policing continued at an alarming rate in August, as shootings more than doubled over the same period last year and murders rose by nearly 50 percent, the police said.
The data released on Wednesday reflected a trend many cities across the country are experiencing in a year already marked by a pandemic and civil unrest: a new surge in shootings, murders and other crimes that has public officials grasping for explanations and scrambling to respond.
Violent crime always rises in the summer, but this year has been extreme in New York. Since May, the city has recorded 791 shootings, a more than 140 percent increase over the same period in 2019. The 180 murders seen between May and August is a more than 51 percent increase compared to 2019.
In August alone, there were 242 shootings in the city, compared with 91 last year, and the number of murders rose from 36 to 53. As a result, the city surpassed 1,000 shootings before Labor Day, making it the worst year for gun violence since 2015, with four months left to go.
Drops in reports of rape and grand larceny have helped keep the overall crime rate this year mostly flat. That rate includes tallies for seven major crimes: murder, rape, robbery, assault, burglary, grand larceny and car theft.
Still, the toll from shootings has been heavy. In August, the people who died from gun violence included: the caretaker of a church in Brooklyn, who was shot inside the church; a mother shot in the back of the head in front of a school in the Bronx; and a man struck by a stray bullet in Brooklyn while he was playing handball.
Asked on Wednesday about the spike in shootings, Mayor Bill de Blasio said the city was dealing with a “perfect storm” and suggested that the pandemic was in part to blame.
The department’s ranks have also been thinned by recent budget cuts and a wave of retirements, leaving commanders scrambling to cover neighborhoods where violence is on the rise, police officials said.
“Obviously in June our cops were very occupied with the protests throughout the city,” Chief Terence Monahan, the highest ranking uniformed officer in the department, said in an interview on Wednesday. As a result, he said, shootings “started to climb up” in pockets left unguarded.