NYC Crime: Murders Down, but Felony Assaults, Grand Thefts Highest in Decades

By Petr Svab
Petr Svab
Petr Svab
reporter
Petr Svab is a reporter covering New York. Previously, he covered national topics including politics, economy, education, and law enforcement.
August 4, 2022 Updated: August 5, 2022

New York has switched last year’s decade-high murder total for a decades-high increase in major theft and serious assaults. Car thefts, robberies, and burglaries are also on the rise.

The New York Police Department recorded more than 29,000 major thefts (more than $1,000 in value stolen) by the end of July—the most since 1998 and up by nearly 50 percent from the same period last year. Felony assaults, defined as causing potentially life-threatening injury, increased by nearly 20 percent, reaching more than 15,000, the most since 2000.

Car thefts are up by 43 percent, burglaries by nearly 33 percent, and robberies by nearly 40 percent.

Murders, so far, dropped by about 4 percent to 253 from last year’s 264, which was the most since 2011.

New York’s situation mirrors the crime sprees of other large cities to some degree, particularly unscrupulous shoplifting.

Mayor Eric Adams and New York Police Department Commissioner Keechant Sewell recently called for changes to the state’s 2019 bail reforms that blocked judges from requiring cash bail for most misdemeanors and nonviolent felonies and some violent felonies, including most second-degree burglaries and some second-degree robberies (pdf).

New York is the only U.S. state with a law that blocks judges “from considering the danger an offender poses when deciding whether or not to set bail,” according to an Aug. 3 statement from Adams’s office.

Recidivism rose markedly in the wake of the reform, according to Adams, a Democrat who ran for mayor partly on improving law enforcement.

A quarter of burglary suspects arrested in 2022 committed another felony within 60 days, he said, up from less than 8 percent in 2017.

For grand theft suspects, the 60-day recidivism rate rose to nearly 17 percent from 6.5 percent in 2017.

More than 140 people were arrested three or more times for burglary in the first half of 2022, up from less than 90 such individuals in the first half of 2017. Shoplifting recidivists (three or more arrests) went up to nearly 900 from fewer than 500 five years ago.

The state’s lawmakers and New York Gov. Kathy Hochul agreed in April to tweak the rules to allow judges to set bail for a somewhat wider range of crimes, such as gun-related crimes, hate crimes, and repeat theft offenses.

However, police officers have complained about other issues as well, such as a general disrespect toward the profession, as well as the city’s change in use-of-force rules a few years ago that outlawed some martial arts techniques extensively used to safely subdue resisting suspects.

Since 2019, the city has lost more than 2,000 police officers, with retirements slated to be the highest on record, the New York Post reported in June.

Mimi Nguyen Ly contributed to this story.

Petr Svab
reporter
Petr Svab is a reporter covering New York. Previously, he covered national topics including politics, economy, education, and law enforcement.