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by Peter Moskos

March 19, 2015

Crime up in NYC (this time for real)

Compared to last year, shootings and homicides in NYC are up 20 percent. Twenty percent is a real increase.

Here's the compstat page and also a link to last week's summary (no matter when you click the link).

I don't know why crime is up. But... I can't help but think it's part of (or some combination of) everything that has happened in NYC in the past year. I mean, I know what most cops think is the cause: stop and frisk has stopped; marijuana arrests have plummeted; there's more oversight of cops; De Blasio is mayor; Obama is president; Eric Holder is Attorney General; cops find it preferable to do too little rather than do to much ("if you don't work you can't get in trouble").

Some of that is just ideological sour grapes. But some of it, part of it, is true.

What I find amazing is I don't hear any critic of the NYPD sounding any alarm. Oh well, I guess 60 extra murder victims per year -- 54 of whom, based on passed statistics, will be black or hispanic men -- is a small price to pay to keep innocent people from getting harassed by the police. I for one don't buy that equation.

Those who opposed past police practices (and to be clear it's not like I loved everything the NYPD was doing) seem to be very silent right now. Shouldn't the increase in murders lead to a discussion about what police should be doing?

I guess the same people who think the police had little if anything to do with the crime drop now just think it's preordained that crime goes up. But it is not "written." Why don't I hear debate? Instead I hear a lot of silence.


Horatio Parker said...

20% more sounds like a lot. Six doesn't.

Also, I read somewhere that the decriminalization for possessing pot has led to some dealer turf wars. People don't care so much if drug dealers kill each ther.

Unknown said...

Yes, but Horatio, it is likely that very few of these homicides are related to turf wars, because most street murders are more about "beefs" than business.

David Woycechowsky said...

I'll get the debate started by asking for a historical, mathematical comparison of the NYPD budget and the homicide rate. How strongly have these two variables been correlated over time? Assiming they have been correlated, what does the homicide v. budget curve look like?

Moskos said...

People are not buying or selling more weed than they were last week, last month, or last year.

That said, a lot of those "beefs" are linked to the drug trade. The beef may not be about drugs, but the culture of shooting someone over something stupid seems to happen a lot more when people are involved in the drug trade.

David, I don't know, but I would not think they're correlated. But certainly the police budget did go up under Dinkins. I lot of cops were hired. Giuliani and Bratton were able to use these cops effectively in the early/mid 1990s.

There was a lot of research in the 1980s on such things. And generally they found no correlation or an inverse correlation (more police money = more crime, because cities with high crime spend more on police).

Matt Ashby said...

When you say homicide is up around 20%, I take it you're referring to the year-to-date comparison with the same period last year. These sorts of comparisons are almost useless: see a recent paper by Simon Guilfoyle in Policing called Binary Comparisons and Police Performance Measurement: Good or Bad?

You'd really need to look at the trend to be able to make a cogent argument that something is going on. There's certainly been no change in the annual trend, with per-capita homicide rates not seen since the late 1950s. I can't find any archive of weekly or monthly NYPD statistics (if anyone knows of one, I'd be interested to know), so it's difficult to look at what would be an expected variation. However, it's not at all surprising that you'd see a slight rebound after a historic low in homicides last year.

Anonymous said...

I find it interesting that year-to-date homicides are up even though Jan. temperatures were lower than average and Feb. was the third coldest on record.

That Fuzzy Bastard said...

Politifact on the claim that crime is up: http://www.politifact.com/punditfact/statements/2015/mar/23/greg-gutfeld/nyc-mayor-de-blasio-responsible-uptick-murders-and/

Jay Livingston said...

The 66 YTD homicides vs. 55 last year. Is that a real increase? Seems like it's too soon to tell, especially with Aggravated Assaults down by more than 400 (-12.8%). (I assume that "Fel. Assault" is roughly similar to aggravated assault.) I had thought that AgAss and homicide were similar crimes -- people in angry, violent disputes -- and that a lot of homicides were aggravated assaults that got a really aggravated thanks to the presence of a gun.

Note also that other crimes are down. Did cops claim that stop-and-frisk reduced burglaries and auto theft because the cops could find burglary and auto theft tools on the friskees? Well, with less frisking, we have 700 feser burglaries (-20%) and 60 fewer auto thefts (-4.7%).

Moskos said...

As of 3/22/15, it's now 71 versus 59 (year-to-date homicides, 2015 vs. 2014).

I really only like look at shootings and homicides. There is just too much potential wiggle room at some many levels in every other crime stat.

I'm not saying aggravated assaults aren't down (and yeah, I just use "agg assault" out of Baltimore habit. In NYC it is "felony assault." I should use that term. And maybe one day I'll say "I waited online" with a straight face... I've been here 13 years. Hasn't happened yet.)... now where was I?

Actually, I am saying if shootings are up, crime is not down. I just don't trust subjective crime stats. I'm not saying it's a plot or conspiracy. But it would be very unlikely that shootings are up and other violent crime down.

But maybe the increase in shootings is just a temporary blip. Indeed, time will tell.

But I still wanted to mark the potential start of any increase in crime, should we later wonder when it happened.