Republicans say New York crime is up. Experts say not at all : NPR

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A critic of Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg is led out of the room by police during a House Judiciary Committee on-site hearing on violent crime in New York on the 17 of April.

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Spencer Platt/Getty Images

A critic of Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg is led out of the room by police during a House Judiciary Committee on-site hearing on violent crime in New York on the 17 of April.

Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Following the impeachment of former President Donald Trump in New York, several Republicans accused Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg of enabling a crime wave in the city. Earlier this week members of the The House Judiciary Committee even held a hearingin Manhattan on the city’s crime issue.

Committee Chairman Representative Jim Jordan, from Ohio, described New York as “a city that has lost its way… here in Manhattan, the scales of justice are weighed down by politics. For the lawyer of -district justice is not blind, it is about looking for opportunities to advance a political agenda: a radical political agenda.”

The committee heard testimony from survivors and family members of crime victims around the city. Including Jose Alba, a shop worker in Harlem who was assaulted by two customers. He killed one of them in self-defense, and was charged with murder. Those charges were eventually dropped, but Alba says the ordeal is far from over. “Now I’m traumatized by the incident. I’m not working because I’m terrified for my life that someone in a group will come after me for revenge,” says Alba.

New Yorkers have a mixed reaction to whether crime is a concern

While there is a belief among some Republicans that New York is in the midst of a crime wave, ask New Yorkers how concerned they are about crime, and you’ll get all kinds of different answers. Among them is a sense of doom: the city is going back to the bad times. But these visions are distinctly at odds with the data. Experts say, crime rates in the city were actually decreasing. So what is the difference between perception and reality?

Chris David was born and raised in Brooklyn but currently lives in Queens. He is 50 years old, and he worries about his daughters: he sees the news about shootings involving young people in parts of New York and thinks “now it is getting worse than it was in the 90s.” He blames it on leniency and bail reform.

Just one block down from where he is walking his dog in his neighborhood, Lucy Nystrom, 28, has a completely different take. She says she feels very safe, although she acknowledges that “there are definitely mental health issues in New York City. I think it’s always been a problem here, and I think it’s being handled really badly.”

During a press conference, Tuesday — the day after the committee hearing, neither Mayor Eric Adams nor New York City Police Commissioner Keechant Sewell acknowledged the hearing of Representative Jordan. Instead, they announced the accusation of a group that was targeting nightclubs, drugging primarily gay men, and robbing them. Two people died of overdoses.

Experts say New York is not experiencing a crime wave

So is it accurate to say New York in the grip of a crime wave?

Some experts say, nothing.

“To put the shooting and homicide crimes into context, we are a much safer city than we were 30 years ago,” says Assistant Professor Christopher Herrmann, criminologist at John Jay College of Criminal Justice. He agreed with the NYPD, and has been studying the city’s crime patterns for years. Herrmann says last year, there were 438 murders; there were almost 2000 ten years ago.

Before the hearing, Herrmann decided to compare the crime rates of New York City with the rates in Columbus, Ohio, which represents Congressman Jordan. “We see that you are 4.3 times more likely to be killed in Columbus Ohio than Manhattan. And you see that 7.3 times more cars per capita are being stolen in Columbus Ohio, than in Manhattan.”

It’s a downward trend that continues for New York. According to the NYPD, in March 2023, New York City saw a 26.1% decrease in shooting incidents compared to this time last year. And homicides decreased by 11.4%

So why are some New Yorkers alarmed? One reason may be that during the pandemic crimes have increased quite significantly. But Herrmann points out that this was not a phenomenon exclusive to New York. Crime has increased across the United States especially car jacking. There has also been an increase in hate crimes — particularly against Asia.

The good news is that things are settling down, and the downward trend continues: crime rates have been falling sharply since the 1990s in New York. There is one caveat, he says: While there are fewer shootings in the city, an increasing percentage of them, they are from the youth and against.

But unfortunately, says Herrman, so is it a national problem.

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