A pandemic of gun violence in New York City

Gun crime across the city was steadily on the decline, until the COVID-19 pandemic hit in early 2020. Here's a closer look at the numbers.

Once the epicenter of the relentless COVID-19 pandemic, New York City witnessed more than a 100% increase in gun violence from 2019. In a year marked by the deadly virus, political turmoil and massive protests against police brutality, the city had one of its most violent summers ever.

 

According to data released by the NYPD, 1,942 people were shot last year, of which at least 361 were fatal. The rise in crime is attributed by some experts to the economic strain and hardship faced by people because of the pandemic. Others, including police officials, say the delays in the judicial system and high infection rates among police forces led to a slower and less efficient response. 

The number of shootings spiked in 2020, compared to the average shootings in the last 5 years.

All shootings in 2020

 Hover to see the numbers for each precinct.

Average shootings from 2015 to 2019

 Hover to see the numbers for each year and precinct.

Even though shootings were steadily declining in the city over the past decade, some neighborhoods remained hotbeds for violence. The hardest hit areas, East New York and Brownsville – served by the 75th police precinct – have been on the margins of the city’s public safety measures for years. Unlike areas like Harlem and Washington Heights that have been increasingly gentrified (for better or worse), East New York is a predominantly low-income, Black and Latino neighborhood. The pandemic only exacerbated already high levels of poverty, crime and disease.

Black men are disproportionately impacted by gun violence, and 2020 was especially bad. After George Floyd was murdered by police in Minneapolis, New York City faced its own reckoning, with calls to defund the NYPD and dismantle racist police brutality. Even so, Black men made up the majority of shooting victims even though they represent only a fraction of the city’s population. 1,376 of the total 1,942 victims were Black, and another 159 Black Hispanic. By contrast, only 37 victims were white. 90% of all victims were male.

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The most distressing part of America’s gun crisis has been its effect on children and young adults. In 2020, there were 574 shooting victims under the age of 24, a number not reached since 2012. Among those shot fatally were a 1-year-old baby, who caught a stray bullet during a bonfire in July, and two teenagers involved in gang violence. While the numbers doubled across age groups, young people were especially at risk with school closures, cancellation of after-school programs and difficult living situations at home.

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