NYC Homicides on Track for Deadliest Year in Decade

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.
December 30, 2021 Updated: January 3, 2022

There were 479 people murdered in New York City so far in 2021, the most since 2011 and part of a violent upsurge plaguing the city since last year. Along with the murder count, shootings have been the highest since 2003 and felony assaults the highest since 2001, according to data from the New York City Police Department (NYPD).

Meanwhile, arrests dropped by nearly a third this year by the end of September compared to the same period in 2019. In 2020, arrests were even lower, NYPD data show.

Shootings started to surge last year in May coinciding with protests and rioting in the city after the killing of George Floyd, a black man, during an arrest in Minneapolis.

Last year ended with more than 1,850 people getting shot in the city, more than double from the year before. This year, there have already been 1,857 people shot by Dec. 26, a slight uptick from 2020 at the same point.

Some experts have pointed to the 2020 bail reform, anti-police sentiment, and the criminalization of some police takedown techniques as factors exacerbating the rise in violence.

The state implemented a reform last year that banned judges from requiring cash bail for most nonviolent and some lower-level violent crimes, allowing criminals to quickly get back on the street after an arrest.

Last year, the city outlawed officers from using a knee on a suspect’s back or chest as a restraint technique during an arrest. That takes off the table some martial arts techniques, such as from Brazilian jiu-jitsu, used by police to safely subdue resisting subjects, some police officers and experts have pointed out.

During the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic lockdown, courts stopped hearing cases for some time and then resumed remotely, facing a backlog of cases. All staff and judges only returned to work in person in May. That has meant that criminals out on bail have rarely faced conviction and imprisonment.

Prosecutors were also more likely to drop charges against suspects last year than the previous year, the New York Post reported.

The much-publicized plan of outgoing Mayor Bill de Blasio last year to cut $1 billion from the NYPD budget materialized only in part. The city ended up spending $317 million less on the department in fiscal 2021 than the year before, but for 2022 adopted an increase of $465 million, according to the Citizens Budget Commission (CBC), a fiscal thinktank.

Much of the planned budget cut stemmed from an expectation the NYPD would reduce overtime expenses by more than two thirds from the year before, which was “unrealistic,” CBC noted last year. The department did manage to reduce overtime expenditures by more than 43 percent.

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