Matthew T. Mangino
GateHouse News Service
June 20, 2014
New York City Police Commissioner Bill Bratton had all of the answers recently when he was besieged with questions about the increasing number of shootings and shooting victims in the city.
Here is an excerpt of the most astonishing answer: This year’s increase in shootings “wouldn’t be as steep if last year’s numbers hadn’t dropped so low.” Translation: If law enforcement efforts were not so effective last year when I wasn’t commissioner, I wouldn’t look so bad this year as the new commissioner.
According to recent figures, there were 507 shooting victims as of June 8, compared to 448 last year, a 13.2 percent increase. The number of shootings stands at 434, compared to 392 a year ago, a 10.7 percent increase, reported Capitol New York.
At the same time, the number of guns seized off city streets has declined. The police have confiscated about 1,290 guns so far this year, 10 percent fewer than this time last year, when it seized 1,435 firearms.
As a result, many New Yorkers are starting to rethink the controversial court decision limiting NYPD’s practice of stop-and-frisk. Last year, U.S. District Judge Shira Scheindlin called the city’s stop and frisk “indirect racial profiling” because it targeted racially defined groups, resulting in the disproportionate and discriminatory stopping of tens of thousands of blacks and Hispanics while the city’s highest officials “turned a blind eye,” she said.
“No one should live in fear of being stopped whenever he leaves his home to go about the activities of daily life,” Scheindlin wrote in her opinion.
At the time, former Police Commissioner Ray Kelly defended the department’s stop-and-frisk practices during a round of television appearances. He emphatically claimed there’s “no question” violent crime will spike if stop-and-frisk is abandoned.
Last summer, in this column I wrote, “[I]t would be a mistake to pooh-pooh the impact of stop-and-frisk.”
“We’ve had an increase, a temporary increase, in shootings. … Crime goes up, it goes down,” Commissioner Bratton told The Christian Science Monitor. “It’s always going to go up at some point in time. We’ll always have the ability to push it down.”
In the first quarter of 2013, under the administration of former Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Commissioner Kelly, the NYPD stopped, questioned and frisked nearly 100,000 people on New York City streets, reported The Monitor. In the first three months of 2014, under Mayor Bill de Blasio and Commissioner Bratton the number of stops dropped to about 14,000 — an 89 percent decrease.
Can the sudden increase in shootings be the result of dramatically fewer stops? In just 28 days, between May 11 and June 8, there was a startling surge in shooting victims. Reuters reported there were 121 victims of gunfire, compared with 86 for the same period last year, a 41 percent increase.
The interesting thing is that homicides have continued to fall in spite of the increase in shootings. There were 120 murders reported so far in 2014 compared with 140 a year earlier, a 15 percent decline. That puts the city on track to set a new low after posting a total of 333 murders last year, the fewest homicides recorded citywide since 1963.
The declining homicide rate, despite an increase in shooting victims, may reflect in part on improved emergency medical response time, Steven Messner, a criminal justice professor at the State University of New York at Albany told Reuters.
“There continues to be better response times getting to the scene and getting people to the hospital so that shootings that previously would have ended in a fatality, won’t,” he said.
Even with better response times and more effective treatment protocols — if the shootings continue to increase — homicides will inevitably rise as well.
Matthew T. Mangino is of counsel with Luxenberg, Garbett, Kelly & George P.C. His book “The Executioner’s Toll, 2010” was recently released by McFarland Publishing. You can reach him at www.mattmangino.com, and follow him on Twitter at @MatthewTMangino.
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