If you believe President Donald Trump’s Department of Justice, New York City is a hellscape ridden with crime. In a statement on Friday, the Justice Department claimed that “New York City continues to see gang murder after gang murder, the predictable consequence of the city's ‘soft on crime’ stance.”
Very grim stuff. Thankfully, reality is not so grim. In fact, crime in New York City is at record lows.
When you add up all incidents of the seven major felony offenses (murder, rape, robbery, felony assault, burglary, grand larceny, and grand larceny of a motor vehicle), there were a total of nearly 102,000 such incidents in 2016. That was down 4 percent from the year before and 82 percent from 2000, according to data collected by the New York Police Department.
The number of murders in particular has plummeted: In 2016, the total murders in the city were 335 — down from 352 in 2015 and 673 in 2000. (New York City’s murder rate has even fallen below the national average in recent years.)
As NBC4 in New York reported, the city’s total crimes in 2016 were the “fewest since the CompStat crime-tracking system was launched more than 20 years ago.”
So far, this year is even better. According to crime statistics the NYPD puts out every week, the number of murders is down by nearly 10 percent and the total number of major crimes is down by nearly 6 percent so far in 2017 compared to the same time period the previous year.
It is true that New York City has gone “softer” on crime in recent years — insofar as “softer” means the city is ditching punitive approaches to criminal justice that led to mass incarceration and overpolicing. The city, for example, has slowly phased out the controversial “stop and frisk” strategy that a court struck down because it was used to target minority Americans, and it’s closing down its troubled Rikers Island jail.
But the reality is that this has not produced an increase in crime, and New York City is actually safer than ever. That might be bad news for Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions’s push for “tough on crime” and anti-immigration policies, but it’s great news for the citizens of New York.