NYC Police Chief Fears Crime Jump When City Reopens

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The New York Police Department expects a crime jump when the city reopens businesses and eases restrictions on social gatherings, reports the Wall Street Journal. Police Commissioner Dermot Shea said crime could rise partly because of the release of 1,600 jail inmates to stem the disease behind bars. At the same time, one in five police officers were out sick at the outbreak’s peak. Last week, 1,624 uniformed officers were sick, 4.5 percent of the workforce. Before the pandemic, the department averaged 3 percent sick. Shea also cited the bail law enacted in January that allows many defendants to remain free as they await trials. He blamed the changes for a rise in crime before the virus struck. “I worry about that storm on the horizon,” Shea said.

After Mayor Bill de Blasio enacted rules to stop the spread of the disease in mid-March, major crimes fell by more than a quarter and arrests plummeted by more than half. Officers who previously patrolled schools were reassigned to parks, and detectives who normally worked in narcotics were redeployed to fight a jump in commercial burglaries. “It radically changed how we police, literally overnight,” Shea said. NYPD Chief of Crime Control Strategies Michael LiPetri is wary of an uptick in violent acts as residents return to public spaces. Before the health crisis, New York’s violent crime rate had plunged to record lows. The pandemic poses different challenges for police compared with natural disasters, said criminologist Daniel Nagin of Carnegie Mellon University. Those tend to be concentrated in a short span, followed by opportunistic crimes like looting. “This is much more persisten and … other factors may come into play affecting crime besides opportunity,” he said, “like people becoming desperate for money.” That can mean increases in commercial burglaries and auto thefts.

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