Shootings in New York City have more than doubled and murders are up more than 40% in the first nine months of 2020, compared to the same period in 2019, according to New York Police Department data. This increase has made 2020 — a year already set apart by widespread civil unrest and a global pandemic — the city’s worst year for gun violence in years.
The Number of Shootings has Gone up in the First Nine Months of 2020
In the first nine months of 2020, there have been 1,163 shootings, a 91% increase from 608 in the same time period in 2019.
“Yes, cities experience changes year-to-year, but that is a very high annual shift,” said Charles Branas, chair of the epidemiology department at Columbia University’s School of Public Health, whose research on gun violence has been cited by Congress and Supreme Court justices.
While the impact that COVID-19 has had on the city may have something to do with the increase in gun violence, it is too early for experts to be sure, explained Branas.
The Number of Shootings Often Spike in Summer
Violent crime in cities tends to increase during the summer months, and this year’s spike in shootings has conformed to that pattern.
“Most shootings, especially in cities, are outdoor events so this somewhat contributes to the higher numbers in summer,” explained Branas. However, he added that it is not unusual for cities to experience spikes in violence during the back-to-school season, well into September, which saw a 127% increase in shootings to 152 so far this year.
The Murder Rate has Increased More in New York than in Other U.S. Cities in 2020
President Donald Trump has repeatedly referenced New York’s uptick in gun crime as part of his broader political strategy to frame Democrat-led cities as violent and lawless. On multiple occasions, the president threatened federal intervention, including in an August 16 tweet aimed at Mayor Bill de Blasio: “Law and Order. If @NYCMayor can’t do it, we will!”
This trend is not limited to New York. Cities across the nation are facing increased violent crime, in addition to widespread civil unrest and the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
A database of 59 sample cities compiled by independent crime analyst Jeff Asher shows that the difference in the percentage increase in murder rates in Democrat and Republican-led cities (29% and 26%, respectively) are relatively minor. However, Asher’s data also shows that New York City’s murder rate us up by 40%, compared with 28% nationally, indicating that New York’s increase in violent crime has been especially severe.
“I don’t exactly know why New York City is a bit higher than other US cities on average but the last time this was the case was not good,” said Branas, referencing the high levels of crime New York experienced during the 1980’s and 1990’s, which were much higher than today.