Homicides and shootings in New York City rose sharply in 2020 as police resources were stretched thin by the COVID-19 pandemic and responses to large-scale protests over the killing of George Floyd, reports the Wall Street Journal. The murder total was 462, up 45 percent from 319 in 2019. The increase accompanied a steep rise in gun violence more intense than any in the previous 20 years. The city recorded 1,531 shootings in 2020, 97 percent more than the 777 in 2019. Data showed the number of shooting victims in the city more than doubled to 1,868 in 2020 from 923 in 2019. Overall serious crime fell nearly one percent, driven by a steep decline in grand larcenies. NYPD officials said hundreds of officers were sick from COVID-19 in the spring. Summertime protests over Floyd also strained the department’s workforce.
Police Commissioner Dermot Shea has faced criticism from elected officials, activists and law-enforcement unions for the handling of the rise in shootings and killings. Changes in bail laws, court slowdowns and reductions in arrests have been cited by law-enforcement officials and criminologists as factors fueling the increase in violent crime. Officials have cited increased gang activity as a factor in about half of the shootings. Former NYPD sergeant Joseph Giacalone said that the rise in shootings and killings. Giacalone, an adjunct professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, said gun violence has an outsize impact on public perceptions of safety.