In a 24-hour span on June 28, 2019, there were five shooting incidents with 7 victims. On the same day this year, during the same time period, there were 8 shooting incidents with 11 victims.
At this time on June 28, 2019, there were 355 shooting incidents with 406 victims. As of June 28, 2020, there were 511 shooting incidents with 616 victims. This past Saturday, 47-year-old Charles Hernandez ––armed with an AR-15––allegedly shot and killed 23-year-old Chioteke Thompson and 39-year-old Stephanie Perkins in broad daylight in Brooklyn.
But there’s more.
Last week produced a 127% increase in shootings (26) when compared to the same time period last year (59). There were 125 reported shootings in the last three weeks of June, which is double compared to the same time period last year.
Seventy-four people were wounded in 55 separate shooting incidents in all of New York City just on Saturday. One of those shootings left a 7-year-old girl with injuries.
So what can this be attributed to? According to New York Police Department Police Chief Terence Monahan, it’s several things. Many of these things involve policies directed by New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio.
A police spokesperson directed the AmNews to an interview Monahan gave on the New Jersey radio station AM 970 The Answer for his…answer.
“We have been going for the past three weeks have been really bad,” said Monahan. “We haven’t seen this since 1996.” Monahan said the reasons for the increase are linked to “bail reform putting people back on the streets, moving to COVID, releasing everyone from Rikers and going right into the George Floyd protesting…the animosity to police has been unbelievable.
“And cops are a little confused right now about what the communities want them to do and how do they want to be policed,” said Monahan.
Anti-police brutality activist Josmar Trujillo has an answer for that.
“Whatever crime increases are to be believed today (cops have manipulated crime stats in the past) are attributable to the problems of poverty and suffering exacerbated by COVID, which are rooted in a legacy of institutional racism,” said Trujillo. “It was wholly predictable that the pandemic would result in long term suffering and anxiety in communities of color, which could translate into harm. But instead of addressing community needs in aggressive and creative ways, the city threw cops at the problems of COVID via social distancing policing.”
There have been numerous reports, including in the AmNews, about Black New Yorkers wanting the racial disparities in social distancing arrests addressed. In a story we published in May, police data showed that more than 90% of New Yorkers arrested for violating social distancing rules were Black and Latinx and 82% of those who received summonses for social distancing violations were Black or Latinx. Between March 16 and May 5, 374 summonses were issued for “violations of emergency procedures and acts liable to spread disease.” Three-hundred and four of those summonses went to Black and Latinx people.
Some of the frustration in the community can be due to the disproportionate COVID-related deaths when compared to our white counterparts or it could be the police behavior detailed above. However, the frustration towards unequal policing remains and some of that frustration boiled over in Harlem on Sunday.
On June 28, 2020, police responded to a possible shooting near 7th Avenue and West 133rd St, within the confines of the 32nd Precinct. The police found seven .45 caliber shell casings and two fired bullets, but there were no reported injuries. However, a large group of what police claimed to be 500 people were gathered on 7th Ave. between 131st St. and West 133rd St. blocking the road for officers. Video of that incident made its way around social media and on local news and it showed some crowd members throwing debris and other objects at police vehicles.
It didn’t sit well with Police Commissioner Dermot Shea who wants to find the people in the video.
“This is a deeply troubling incident. It is an unprovoked assault on our cops. It continues as they attempt to deescalate,” stated Shea. “We have clear images of some of the worst perpetrators. We are offering an award for their arrest.”
Frustration has also grown from the community about the lack of policing when it comes to fireworks. Complaints about fireworks being lit at night and overnight have risen from 32 in June 2019 to 13,109 in June 2020. A similar rise in complaints could be found in cities like San Francisco and Milwaukee. But New Yorkers have accused the police of not coming to neighborhoods when called about the fireworks and/or standing around watching them when they are called to respond to a complaint. When asked about the lack of policing when it comes to fireworks, Mayor de Blasio said the cops had bigger fish to fry.
“Respectfully, the videos don’t tell you the whole story, as per usual in life. The NYPD, FDNY are always going to make decisions based on safety,” said de Blasio to reporters. “They have many other things, particularly NYPD, dealing right now with other profound challenges…the challenge we’re having right now with shootings, which is job-one to address, and that’s what I want NYPD focused on first and foremost.
“A video doesn’t always show you the whole picture,” de Blasio said.
Some voices behind the scenes are attributing the increase in shootings to a similar 2014-15 police work slowdown as a result of the murder of Officers Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu in Brooklyn. But the slowdown didn’t result in an increase in crime. According to CompStat statistics, which had be to extracted from the police via a Freedom of Information Law Request for a study by the scientific journal Nature Human Behavior, crime fell 6% during those weeks.
So is the warm weather to blame? Is COVID to blame? Is the police’s collective response to the George Floyd protests to blame? No one knows…except for a few voices.
“Violence always increases when people are struggling and we are in the midst of an economic crisis and a pandemic,” said Justice Committee Co-Director Loyda Colon to the AmNews. “Safety will come from meeting peoples’ needs and addressing the root causes of inequity, not from prioritizing policing and criminalization. The NYPD’s approach to violence clearly hasn’t worked.”
“Crime has always been a political talking point that police have used to advantage themselves: if crime goes up, we need more policing; if crime goes down, it’s because of policing,” added Trujillo. “Heads they win, tails we lose. The fact is that crime has never directly been tied to a policing strategy or how much or how little policing we have. City Hall, with its addiction to the NYPD, is to blame for increases in crime, which can never be fundamentally solved by a badge and a gun.”