NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea says the city took a step backward in its fight against gun violence during a "tough" weekend that saw more than 50 people shot and at least four killed since Friday. He says the problem is largely in Brooklyn.
"Right now about half of the shootings in New York City, close to, are coming out of Brooklyn and that’s a big problem," Shea told NY1 Tuesday. "When you dig a little deeper and peel the onion back you’re seeing Brooklyn individuals and perpetrators with active gun cases sometimes from Brooklyn committing violence in other parts of the city.”
According to police, 51 people were shot from Friday through Sunday, with at least four deaths, one of which was near Brooklyn's Prospect Park. Another man died after a physical altercation, police said. Eight people were shot and five people were killed over the same span last year.
In the last four weeks, shooting incidents in the city are up nearly triple versus the same period last year, continuing a pattern seen since early June as the city's coronavirus lockdown began to ease and the NYPD shifted its anti-crime tactics.
"It’s a very rough patch for sure. I think the numbers speak for themselves. This weekend was a tough weekend,” Shea told NY1. "We had started to see small incremental improvements ... we took a step backwards this week.”
Both Shea and Mayor Bill de Blasio have blamed a wide variety of factors for the spike in shootings, including what they see as slowdowns in the court system, as well as gang activity and pent-up rage after months in a pandemic lockdown.
"It’s a tough time right now in an unbelievable year," Shea said Tuesday. "No one wants right now what we’re seeing on the streets."
The NYPD chief pointed to a recent uptick in gun arrests as a sign of progress, calling them "a beautiful thing." But he said it's what happens after the arrests -- suspects let out over bail reform, COVID-19 concerns or other reasons and committing crimes anew -- that remains a large point of concern.
New York’s recent crime wave has upended years of at-or-near record lows that had city leaders touting it as the “Safest Big City in America.” Still, it remains far safer than in the early 1990s, when there were more than 2,000 killings per year.
This year, the city has seen an 82.1 percent increase in shooting incidents and an 88.5 percent increase in shooting victims over 2019. More than 1,000 people were shot in the city from Jan. 1 through Sunday, police said. Brooklyn has accounted for 249 shootings from Jan. 1 through July 22, according to NYPD data, far surpassing the total of the second most problematic borough (the Bronx has 173 through the same time period). Homicides are also at years-long highs, climbing more than 30 percent, to 259 as of Sunday from 199 at the same point last year.
President Donald Trump, who's running for re-election on a law-and-order agenda as a counterweight to the police and criminal justice reform movement, reacted to the news of the recent mayhem in his hometown Sunday night on Twitter. Once again, he threatened to send the feds to New York City as he did Portland if local officials don't get the violence under control.
“Law and Order,” Trump wrote, directing his message at the city’s Democratic mayor, Bill de Blasio. “If (he) can’t do it, we will!”
De Blasio has consistently and in no uncertain terms refuted the need for presidential assistance in combatting the spike in violence. On Monday, he dismissed Trump’s tweet as “bluster,” telling reporters that a recent uptick in gun arrests was a hopeful sign that the NYPD “will turn this tide.” The mayor has blamed the coronavirus crisis in part for creating a "perfect storm." He also says New York City and the NYPD can handle the violent uptick without fed help.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo also says he believes New York City has the manpower to manage the spike in gun violence; he previously said he had spoken to Trump and told the president directly that an influx of federal agents wasn't necessary.