We recently discussed the sickening news that New York City had already passed 1,000 shootings in 2020, a number that’s in excess of the total number of shootings for all of 2019 and there are still four months to go. But as with any municipal government and law enforcement agency, the raw number of incidents doesn’t tell the whole story. How effective are officials being in solving these cases and putting the guilty behind bars? According to a new report from the New York Post, things aren’t looking all that hot on the enforcement front, either. The NYPD’s clearance rate for shootings is hovering below 20% on the year, meaning that more than four out of five shooters are still on the streets, and this has many of the locals feeling nervous. (At least the once who haven’t packed up and left yet, anyway.)
The city is gripped by a gun-violence epidemic, but only about 20 percent of shootings have ended with an arrest, according to a Post analysis of NYPD data through late August.
Of the approximately 1,000 cases of gunplay tallied, about 210 have seen at least one suspect arrested, with the rest remaining open as of late last month, according to data The Post obtained from the city’s five district attorneys when the NYPD repeatedly refused to provide it themselves…
A shooting is considered “cleared” when cops make at least one arrest.
Before we begin ringing the alarm bells too loudly, this isn’t as much of a dramatic drop in clearances as you might imagine. Sadly, the NYPD has only been averaging a clearance rate of between 30 and 33 percent over the past five years. But dropping below twenty is still rather alarming.
As usual, the effectiveness of the police in solving shootings varies quite a bit between boroughs. Brooklyn continues to drag down the NYPD’s numbers with both the lowest clearance rate (15%) and the highest number of shootings (nearly 450). Those numbers aren’t hard to explain because Brooklyn is the home to East New York on the borough’s south side. That’s one of the most dangerous, gang-infested parts of Gotham and it remains essentially a no-go zone for the police at certain times of the day. By contrast, Manhattan turned in a 26% clearance rate on only 130 shootings, while Staten Island cleared half of the thirty shootings they experienced this year.
It seems that no matter who you ask, the reason for this poor performance comes down to a variety of factors, not just a single flaw that could be quickly corrected. While the Post claims to have mostly “debunked” the idea, it’s impossible to ignore the fact that New York’s new bail “reform” laws have been putting a lot more criminals back out on the streets more quickly, as have policies seeking to empty the jails as much as possible during the pandemic. And getting rid of the city’s plainclothes anti-crime unit (responsible for taking a lot of illegal guns off the street) certainly hasn’t helped. But the bigger factor, at least according to one study commissioned by the city, is the effect of how the police do their jobs while facing a wave of anti-police sentiment.
The broken windows policies that served to tame New York’s out-of-control crime rates in the 90s and 2000s are no more under the de Blasio administration. And the constant scrutinizing of everything the police do amid calls for more cops to be put in jail leaves many officers hesitant to aggressively go after suspects at times. Why engage a potentially dangerous gang member when you may wind up being the one facing charges if they decide to play rough with you and you wind up having to use force to make the arrest? And with relations between the Mayor and the police unions tanking into the gutter, there’s even less incentive to go above and beyond.
The final factor was pointed out in this report by an NYPD spokeswoman who reminds everyone that the cops are quite short of manpower as compared to years past. Attrition is adding up, with more and more police leaving the force. Recruiting new officers has been increasingly challenging as well. The NYPD is faced with a rising violent crime rate at the same time as they have fewer officers to deal with it. With that in mind, it is any shock that clearance rates are down? It should have been predictable, really.