Violent crime declines in summer of 2021, compared with deadly 2020

REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

This summer in New York City was significantly less violent than last year — as murders, shootings, and assaults all saw sharp declines between June and August of 2021, compared with 2020. 

 “We know that the summer is always a challenging time here,” said NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea. “I am happy to report that this is now three months in the bank where we have really turned the corner in terms of pushing back on that violence with all of our partners.”

Throughout the Five Boroughs, the NYPD recorded 115 homicides in that three-month stretch this year, which represents a 27 percent decline compared with the previous year, when New York City saw 158 killings. 

Similarly, shooting incidents dropped 28.8 percent, from 689 to 490 this year, while felony assaults decreased from 6,216 to 6,168 year-over-year between June and August.

“This is now three months in a row — June, July, and August,” Shea said. “And the expectation is 100 percent that when we finish this year, we’re going to string together month-after-month of reducing shootings. That’s our task in front of us and I firmly believe we’re going to accomplish that.”

Good news, but context is needed

While the decline in violence this year compared to last is undoubtedly welcome news, the numbers remain high relative to the average statistics throughout Mayor Bill de Blasio’s seven-and-a-half-year tenure as the city’s chief executive. 

Year-to-date, 304 people have been murdered in the Big Apple, which averages out to 38 people per-month, or 456 per-year — which would be the second highest total of de Blasio’s time in office, just after 2020. 

Between 2014, when the lame-duck mayor took over at City Hall, and 2020, the NYPD recorded an average of 338.4 homicides each year

So while this year’s numbers are comparatively bad for the de Blasio administration, 2021 still remains on pace to see a lower amount of killings than any year under Mayor Rudy Giuliani, and all-but-two-years of Mayor Michael Bloomberg — as those two men presided over an average of 889.6 and 514 murders per-year, respectively. 

The geography of crime

So far this year, the Bronx is the borough with the most murders — as the area has seen 97 killings in 2021. Brooklyn is a close second with 91 killings so far, while Manhattan and Queens have both seen 54 homicides in 2021. Staten Island, as usual, is the least-deadly borough, with just eight recorded murders this year, according to police statistics

Compared with last year, the Bronx is the only borough to see an increase in killings to-date this year, compared with last — as the 97 murders this year is 25 higher than the 72 killings between Jan. 1 and Aug. 31 of last year. 

“The Bronx, we have some work to do there, as well as some pockets throughout the city,” said the police commissioner said. “But I think I think a lot of really positive work has been done and it’s going to continue to be done.”

Brooklyn saw the biggest to-date decline in homicides, with a 21.5 percent drop, from 116 last year, to just 91 so far in 2021.  

Due to a statically-significant uptick in shooting incidents throughout the first few months of 2021, the year-to-date numbers on gun violence are higher this year relative to last — 1,041 compared to 989 — although that trend has reversed itself in recent months. 

Like murders, Brooklyn saw the biggest decline in shootings, with a 20 percent drop from 341 to 344. The Bronx saw the biggest increase in incidents of gun violence between January and August, from 251 last year to 336 so far in 2020.

The mayor, in referencing the decline in August shootings year-over-year in Brooklyn, called the borough an “amazing success story.”

“I want everyone to understand, Brooklyn, historically, particularly Brooklyn North — an area we’ve had a lot of challenges,” Hizzoner said. “But Brooklyn has been an amazing success story now. Shootings down 47.7 percent compared to August, 2020.”