[Leer en español]
“New York is back to its old self”, is what many headlines are saying, emphasizing the wave of violence unleashed in 2020 in the state’s main city. The pandemic and the economic crisis have generated worrying social consequences in “The City That Never Sleeps,” according to The Wall Street Journal. Between January 1st and December 20th, the metropolis “registered 1,824 victims of shootings, an increase of almost 104% compared to 896 in the same period last year, according to New York police data.
In other words, firearm casualties doubled in 2020, mainly affecting communities where racial minorities such as blacks and Hispanics predominantly reside. “N.Y.P.D. officials say the increase in shootings this year is greater than any increase the city has seen in years,” the WSJ details in its report.
According to the data, the total number of shootings this year is 1,493, almost double the 745 reported in 2019. A single shooting can take the lives of several people, which is why the disparity between the number of people killed and the number of recorded shootings.
Blacks and Hispanics, the shootings’ main victims
“An analysis of NYPD data by that office showed that 1,440 of the 1,495 shooting victims between January 1st and October 1st, or 96% were black or Hispanic. During that period, 29 shooting victims were white,” The Wall Street Journal article states.
This means that the shootings were mostly in neighborhoods where the main communities are black and Hispanic.
According to the police analysis, eight low-income neighborhoods -which are divided into six Brooklyn and two Bronx neighborhoods- “have a higher number of shootings than any other neighborhood in the city.”
Shootings are a long-standing problem in these New York City neighborhoods that have seen crime become a virtually structural problem. According to the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice, these eight neighborhoods, which include sections of Brownsville, East Brooklyn New York, and parts of the South Bronx, were the most heavily shot at in the city in 2019 and 1993.
The effects of the shootings are devastating to the families and communities of these New York neighborhoods. “They destroy your life,” Natasha Christopher, a resident of Brooklyn’s Cypress Hills section, told WSJ. She lost her son Akeal (14), after he was shot in 2012 while returning home from a high school graduation party in Brooklyn’s Bushwick section. Her murder has not been solved, the WSJ reported.
This crime left Mrs. Christopher with the after-effects of depression and post-traumatic stress, and she is not the only mother who has lost a child to the crime that plagues these communities.
“She quit her job as a medical assistant and her other two children began having problems in school. It took years for her family to recover, she said, adding that she is still struggling with the pain,” WSJ added.
For Jessica Mofield, executive director of the New York City Office of Firearms Violence Prevention, the socioeconomic conditions of these neighborhoods play a major role in the high crime rate. “This is much more than just guns,” said Ms. Mofield. “It’s about the economic and social conditions in which we see people.
On the other hand, NYPD officials have said that the increase in shootings this year is largely due to the criminal activities of gangs, which are concentrated in the poorer neighborhoods where shootings are more frequent.
According to the WSJ, the city’s police have made efforts to address the problem by arresting gang members and closing cases. In fact, NYPD Chief of Detectives Rodney Harrison mentioned that officers will focus on arresting gang leaders.
But the situation is far from simple, Chief Harrison said, in addition to the respective complications in dealing with the crime, he also cited “obstacles associated with the virus as part of the challenge in making arrests, including the increased use of masks, which obscure faces and make it difficult for police to identify shooters from video.”
Logically, the greater the number of shootings, the more difficult it is to deal with the phenomenon of gun violence.
As NYPD tries to deal with the most current events, many cases, such as that of Ms. Natasha Christopher, are forgotten. “Mothers like me, who lost their children, are part of a club we never wanted to belong to,” said Christopher. “There are many unsolved cases in our group and we feel that our children were forgotten.”