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by Peter Moskos

March 13, 2016

Why did New Yorkers stop shooting each other?

In New York City not only has the number of homicides being going down, but the percentage of homicides committed with a gun has been decreasing.

Put another way, there were about 309 people shot and killed in 2011 in NYC (for UCR reasons we're talking incidents, so this is a bit of an undercount). In 2013: 188. That's a huge decrease. (2014 saw 184.)

If you look at all other city homicides (ie: non-gun), they're down a little. But the decrease in NYC is all about fewer people shot. Did New Yorkers get together in 2011 and decide to stop shooting each other? I missed that meeting. Was it because of Occupy? Or because Occupy was broken up? Did anti-police protests somehow reduce gun violence? I doubt it. But something happened, and I don't know what it is.

Oddly, the NYPD didn't take credit for this crime drop because it coincided with anti-police protests and the end of stop and frisk. Cops and Kelly and those on the right were certain -- hoping even -- that crime was going to skyrocket. They've been saying that since at least 2012. Well, it's 2016.

Here is some UCR homicide data from 2014 (if you hold your breath for 2015, you'll turn blue and pass out):

New York City: 56 percent of homicides are by gun, 26 percent by knife ("or cutting instrument"). Nationwide is 68% gun, 13% knife.

A few other cities:
Baltimore: 75% gun, 18% knife.

Chicago: 87% gun, 7%knife.

Los Angeles: 73% gun, 13% knife.
Here's the percentage of NYC homicides that were gun-related at various years (UCR data):
1990: 74% of homicides by gun
1997: 61%
1998: 60%
1999: 59%
2000: 66%
2002: 61%
2005: 61%
2009: 63%
2010: 61%
2011: 61%
2012: 57%
2013: 59%
2014: 56%
So maybe that's not the issue. Honestly? A five-percent decrease since 1997 ain't such a big deal. But my gut tells me a 5-percent slow but steady drop since 2011 does mean something.

Of course it *is* related to gun control. But as any 2nd-Amendment-loving Trump-loving patriot will tell you (often in all caps) "CHICAGO HAS GUN CONTROL!!!!" And Chicago, if this is too subtle for you, has a lot of killings.

So maybe, at least this is what I think, gun control isn't about gun laws as much as actual prosecution and deterrence. New York is the only city where people believe -- mostly correctly I might add -- that illegal gun possession will bring you real time.

What if it were that simple?


aNanyMouse said...

Minor typo alert: "So maybe that's THE not the issue."

Please cite a source for the claim that NY is the only city where people believe they'll do time for packin' heat.

Andy D said...

Well they sure don't do time in Baltimore for it. Anecdotally that is a definite difference. Peter, surely you aren't parroting the NRA line that we should ENFORCE THE LAWS ON THE BOOKS! (tm), are you? 'Murica!

I think the idea that genuine strict enforcement of laws relating to firearms possession and use in crimes sounds fantastic. Instead of just passing more laws that sound good an accomplish little.

Anonymous said...

I'm not so sure I buy that criminals are going to say "well, I'm willing to kill someone but I don't want to carry a gun because that's a serious charge." I'd be more inclined to look at huge drivers of violence in Baltimore- like gangs- and wonder if there's something going on in NYC reducing the gang violence.

Jay Livingston said...

Chicago has strict gun laws. But neighboring areas don't. That makes it much easier for gangs to get guns. I'm too lazy to search out the data, but I would guess that a lot of the Chicago murders are committed with guns that come from a handful of stores just west of Chicago. New York gangbangers deal with a much longer supply line. They (or their suppliers) can't just go to Westchester, Nassau, or NJ. They have to go down to Virginia.

Moskos said...

I am not a fan of the NRA. That said, they're absolutely right about the need to enforce existing gun laws. We already have gun laws that could be better enforced, and yet too many gun control fans just want to pass more feel-good laws rather than use what we already have.

I don't have a cite as to NYC gun laws. It's anecdotal. I don't believe there is any research on this. There should be.

But what is important to me is that my students, young minority NYC residents, believe this. I can certainly also vouch for Baltimore not giving mandatory time (it doesn't have to be a lot of time) for people caught with illegal guns.

And maybe it is about the gun chain. And Bloomberg tried to crack down on that (guns coming from the South). I assumed that was mostly just talk. But maybe not. Could it have actually been effective? I don't know. But it seems important. It's hard to imagine that one person in NYC couldn't go down and bring back a van full of guns. It just seems futile to try and cut off the supply of guns anywhere in America. But maybe it is worth the effort.

I'll look at Newark. That should be similar to NYC, one would think.

Moskos said...

Jay: From 2009-2014, Newark, NJ, is a pretty steady 85 percent gun and 6.5 percent knife. That's a BIG difference from NYC's 56% and 26%. So I don't think proximity to legal gun accessibility is the issue.