The crime rate is up in New York, and so are the number of arrests, according to the NYPD’s latest data.
Police officials said at a press conference on Wednesday that there were 335 arrests for murder and non-fatal shootings so far this year, compared to 257 in the same period last year. Overall, through March, the NYPD hit a 21-year high in the number of arrests officers made for major crimes.
In the transit system, arrests are up 64% year-over-year. There is also a dramatic increase in summons for minor “quality of life” offenses this year, including more than 17,000 for fare evasion, 1,400 for smoking, and 600 for obstruction of seats, like when someone is stretched out sleeping, police said.
“So are we giving greater attention, greater detail, to lower-level offenses? Yes we are. And we’re doing that to make people feel safe and improve safety in the transit system,” Transit Chief Jason Wilcox said.
Advocates for police reform said they believe such enforcement of small crimes, known as “broken windows policing," target poor and minority New Yorkers and lead to constitutional violations.
Rikers Island’s jail complex is slated to close in 2027, with small county-based jails opening in its place, but increased arrests complicate that plan because there are currently too many incarcerated people to fit at the planned facilities.
Police brass also detailed the work of their controversial new Neighborhood Safety Teams, where squads of officers in modified uniforms and unmarked cars seek to stem violence in the most dangerous neighborhoods. After about three weeks of these units patrolling the streets, there have been 135 arrests, with 25 of those on gun charges, the NYPD said.
Although the number of shootings has steadily increased since the onset of the pandemic, about half of shootings this year were in just 10 neighborhoods, including five in the Bronx, four in Brooklyn, and one in Queens. Forty percent of those responsible for shootings this year are part of a gang or a crew, police said, and a quarter of shootings in March happened during the day.
One feature of the current crime landscape in the city is repeat arrests, officials said. Thirty-seven percent of those arrested this year for burglaries have three or more prior arrests for the same offense. And about a quarter of those arrested for gun crimes have previously been convicted of a felony.
The NYPD press conference came as lawmakers in Albany were hammering out a deal to give judges more leeway to impose bail on those charged with crimes in order to keep people who can’t afford bail locked up pending court dates. Some Democrats and racial justice activists say the 2019 and 2020 bail reform laws have had no impact on public safety, since few people out on bail are rearrested.
But Police Commissioner Keechant Sewell said rolling back the reforms will make the city safer.
“We certainly would hope that judges would be allowed to consider the potential violence of the offender and recidivism with those policies as well,” she said.