by J. Krishna Moorthi
It would have seemed unbelievable in 1990,when there were 2,245 killings in New York City but as of Wednesday there have been just 286 in the city this year-the lowest since records have been kept. In fact, crime has fallen in New York City in each of the major felony categories- murder and manslaughter, rape, assault, robbery, burglary, grand larceny and car thefts -to a total of 94,806 as of Sunday, well below the previous record low of 1,01,716 set last year.
If the trend holds just a few more days , this year’s homicide total will be under the city’s previous low of 333 in 2014, and crime will have declined for 27 straight years, to levels that police officials have said are the lowest since the 1950’s. The numbers, when taken together portray a city of 8.5 million people growing safer even as the police, use less deadly force, make fewer arrests and scale back controversial practices like stopping and frisking thousands of people on the streets.
But officials see one area of concern, an uptick in reports of rapes towards the end of the year. The increase, which officials said included a higher-than-normal number of attacks that occurred more than one year ago.
Police said they believed news coverage played a role in the spike in reports, though they also credited their own efforts combating domestic violence with encouraging survivors to speak up. And while rapes were down from last year by one, to 1,417 misdemeanor sex crimes- a catch-hall for various types of misconduct that includes groping, ticked up to 9.3% to 3,585 so far.
There were 2,245 killings in 1990 and more than 5,27,000 major felony crimes and more than 5,000 people shot.Shootings have plunged to 774 so far this year, below last year’s record low of 998. And the first time, fewer than 1,000 people have been hurt by gunfire, 917 as of Sunday.
Franklin E. Zimring, a professor at University of California, Berkeley School of Law, said the downturn was an “astounding achievement,” but it raised another question, how long and how will crime fall? Zimring said that while better policing accounted for much of the decline in crime since 1990, it was no longer a primary driver.
New York is “tiptoeing” toward a 90% crime decline for reasons that remain “utterly mysterious,” he said. Whatever the reason for New York’s crime deductions, the statistics do not capture the complete picture of public safety. Some crimes are not represented fully or at all. Acts of domestic violence, sexual assault, identity thefts, hate-crimes and shootings that don’t result in injuries or damage, a report said.