Violence Up, Arrests Down as NYC Police Pull Back

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A wave of shootings in New York City this week stemming from an escalating feud between two gangs is the kind of conflict that investigators believe is driving a summertime surge in violence unlike anything the city has seen in more than two decades, the New York Times reports. The spike, which included the killing of a baby hit by a stray bullet at a barbecue, has prompted unusually harsh recriminations between some elected officials and police leaders. Arrest numbers have dropped as shootings have spiraled up. Some elected officials contend that rank-and-file police officers are staging a work slowdown in response to protests over police brutality and systemic racism that erupted after George Floyd’s death.

Senior police commanders believe their inability to curb the shootings stems from the need to shift police resources to the protests, as well as a hostile political climate that has made officers reluctant to carry out arrests because of what they see as unfair scrutiny of their conduct. Police Commissioner Dermot Shea tied the rise in shootings to the release of thousands of people from Rikers Island under a new bail law and measures to contain the spread of the coronavirus. “It is a toxic, toxic environment,” he said. New York police said at least 44 people were shot between Monday and early Thursday. “One shooting is turning into another shooting, is turning into another shooting, is turning to another shooting because we are unable to make an arrest,” said Rodney Harrison, chief of detectives. There were 634 shootings through July 12, compared with 396 in the same period last year. Police have made arrests in 23 percent of shootings this year, well below the usual clearance rate of above 30 percent. At the height of the pandemic, more than 7,000 officers — almost 20 percent of the force — were out sick.

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