For decades, New York City had embraced the title of the “safest big city in the country.” But now, as it cautiously emerges from months of a coronavirus lockdown, it is battling a surge in gun violence.
The latest numbers are stark: 53 people were shot — four fatally — from Friday through Monday, the police said. Over the Fourth of July weekend, the police reported 64 shootings.
For the year, as of Sunday, there had been 634 shootings in 2020, compared with 394 in same period in 2019.
Here’s what we know about the violence.
The recent casualties
The 53 people shot in New York City between Friday and Monday included a 1-year-old boy who was killed on Sunday when two gunmen opened fire at a cookout in Bedford-Stuyvesant, and a 17-year-old boy who was shot in the head on Monday night outside a housing project in East Harlem.
Also on Monday, in the Canarsie section of Brooklyn, five people were shot in three drive-by shootings. The victims were expected to survive, a police official said.
On Tuesday afternoon, there were two more fatalities: a 15-year-old boy and a 34-year-old man. They had gotten into an argument and shot each other, the police said.
The spike in shootings
City and police officials have suggested various reasons for the increase in gun violence, and it’s difficult to pinpoint one root cause.
The start of summer is traditionally a high-crime period, as people spend more time outdoors. The crisis this season may be compounded by virus restrictions that limit indoor gatherings.
Mayor Bill de Blasio has discussed economic hardship, coupled with the stress of enduring the outbreak, as possible drivers for gun violence.
The police commissioner, Dermot F. Shea, has pointed to the release of inmates from city jails during the pandemic and new regulations on the police — including a ban on chokeholds — as possible factors.
Solving the crimes
So far this year, the police have been able to make an arrest in about one in four shootings, instead of the usual one in three, according to my colleague Ashley Southall, The Times’s police bureau chief.
Police officials have said that recent changes to the criminal justice system, notably a law curtailing cash bail for some defendants, have driven up crime. They also have said the commissioner’s decision to disband some plainclothes units that targeted illegal guns and violent crime may have contributed to the rise in shootings.
Some critics of the department have accused the police of easing up on enforcement. Chief of Department Terence A. Monahan has denied a purposeful slowdown, though he said on Tuesday that many officers were fearful they might be arrested if they took “proactive” steps to stop crime.
“All the rhetoric of Defund the Police, get rid of the police, abolish the police, that’s got to end, that has to stop,” he told 1010 WINS radio. “We need to find a middle ground of cops and communities, working together to handle a lot of these issues here.”
How the violence compares
Still, Christopher Herrmann, a professor at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice who once analyzed crime statistics for the Police Department, said the recent jump in shootings was worrisome.
“I have been studying this for a long time,” Mr. Herrmann told my colleagues. “I have never seen that much of an increase ever.”
Ashley Southall contributed reporting.
From The Times
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The Mini Crossword: Here is today’s puzzle.
What we’re reading
New York City has introduced a 15-minute diagnostic test for the coronavirus as part of a test-and-trace pilot program. [Gothamist]
An S.U.V. crashed into an outdoor dining area in Queens, injuring five people. [New York Post]
Mosquitoes carrying the West Nile virus were found in the Bronx and on Staten Island. [Staten Island Advance]
And finally: Documenting 2020
A few weeks ago, a nerdy joke went viral on Twitter: Future historians will be asked which quarter of 2020 they specialize in.
As museum curators and archivists stare down one of the most daunting challenges of their careers — telling the story of the pandemic, the severe economic collapse that came with it and the nationwide social justice movement — they are imploring people to preserve personal materials for posterity and for possible inclusion in museum archives. It’s an all-hands-on-deck effort, they say.
Many museums have put out calls on social media for submissions and are directing donors to submission forms on their websites.
The New-York Historical Society, for instance, is seeking Black Lives Matter protest materials.
“A lot of our critical collecting and gathering of diverse stories we’ve been able to do because of directed outreach,” said Margaret K. Hofer, the museum’s vice president and director. “We’re trying to capture the experience of all aspects of all populations in the city, including people experiencing homelessness and the incarcerated.”
The Museum of Chinese in America has begun collecting materials about pandemic-related racist attacks on Asians and Asian-Americans, and personal testimonies about experiences during the pandemic and protests. Because museums may not necessarily be obvious repositories for many immigrant communities, said Nancy Yao Maasbach, the museum’s president, her institution is making translators available to those who want to tell their stories.
“We want to make the barrier to entry on this very low,” she said.
While some curators are loath to suggest a list of items that we should be saving — they say that they don’t want to manipulate the documentation of history but take their cues from the communities — many are imploring us to see historical value in everyday objects.
And there is perhaps no everyday article more representative of this year than the mask, which has “become a really powerful visual symbol,” Ms. Hofer said.
The New-York Historical Society has identified about 25 masks that the museum will collect, including an N95 mask worn by a nurse in the emergency field hospital set up in Central Park in the spring. (The museum also collected a set of field hospital scrubs and a cowbell that the medical team rang whenever it discharged a patient.)
Also, don’t be so quick to edit and delete your cellphone photos. “Snapshots are valuable,” said Kevin Young, the director of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. “We might look back at one and say, ‘This picture tells more than we thought at the time.’”
It’s Wednesday — share your story.
Metropolitan Diary: Fresh
It was spring 1974, and I was riding my bike home from Central Park early one morning. I stopped for a red light at 57th Street and Sixth Avenue.
As I waited for the light to change, a delivery truck from H&H Bagels pulled up alongside me.
I looked up at the driver and said hello. He said hello. Then he reached into a bag by his side and handed me a fresh bialy.
— Ari Rabinowitz
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