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The Spike in Shootings in New York City May Outlast Covid

The majority of shootings have taken place in areas where gun violence occurred before the pandemic. Roughly 37 percent of shootings this year have taken place in Brooklyn, compared with 43 percent in 2020, with much of the conflict located in the central areas of the borough. The Bronx accounts for 31 percent of the shootings.

Experts say pointing out a single reason for their persistence is impossible, and they note that much of the discussions about factors responsible for the shooting spike remain conjecture. Dermot F. Shea, the police commissioner, often places blame on recent statewide criminal justice changes, which he says have made it harder to keep those charged with criminal offenses in jail.

But others emphasize the role of the pandemic in further disrupting life in many of the areas where shootings have risen. The volume of guns in New York and elsewhere, which data suggests rose significantly during the pandemic, has made the spillover of firearms into illegal hands more common, experts add.

“People have been on an emotional roller coaster and totally traumatized by a new existence,” said Erica Ford, the founder of LIFE Camp in the South Jamaica neighborhood of Queens, an organization in the city’s crisis management system that focuses on gun violence prevention and intervention. “When you top all that with poverty, with a lack of resources, an inability to engage in normal activities, it doesn’t come up to ‘Kumbaya, my Lord.’”

Ms. Ford attributed the ongoing rise to a combination of myriad challenges of the past year: joblessness and economic downturn; persistent school absences and challenges logging onto remote classes, along with an absence of after-school activities; and more disputes turning into shootings because of the proliferation of guns over the last year.

And in a city where the virus killed more than 30,000 people, many of them older, thousands of families lost stabilizing matriarchs and patriarchs. “There’s some drastic changes that took place in people’s houses,” Ms. Ford said.

Violent crime traditionally rises in the summer, but last year was particularly alarming as the city recorded 205 shootings in June — the highest for that month since 1996.

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