Gov. Kathy Hochul on Thursday told New Yorkers that “change is coming” in reducing New York’s gun violence problem, echoing statements made days earlier by New York City officials in announcing a downward trend in gun violence this year compared to 2021.
Hochul said shootings across the state were down 8% during the first six months of the year, compared to the same time last year, outside of New York City. The statistic represents the cumulative number of shooting incidents involving injuries from 20 police agencies in 17 counties where more than 80% of violent crimes outside of New York City occur.
“So I just want you to feel that sense of change is coming and not to live in such despair that we can’t do this and that it’s spiraling out of control, and it was spiraling out of control,” Hochul said at a press conference on Thursday in Brooklyn, where she announced the state will invest $220 million in gun violence prevention efforts. That includes $20 million toward the state’s SNUG Street outreach programs and $15 million to be allocated to crime analysis centers, which coordinate with local law enforcement agencies to study crime patterns and provide investigative support.
The governor did not mention, however, that the number of people killed by gun violence in those 17 counties has increased by 5% this year, according to the state Division of Criminal Justice Services. Or that the number of shooting incidents involving injuries during the first six months of the year have increased 45% since 2016.
Hochul’s comments follow statistics released on July 7 by the New York Police Department showing a 24% decrease in shootings in June this year compared with the same month last year. Murders were down 32%. But six of the seven major crime categories saw an increase, including a 34% increase in burglaries and 36% increase in robberies. Overall, major crimes ticked up 31% last month compared to June 2021.
The total number of shootings, through July 10, are down 11% from last year, but are up 16% from the same time period in 2020, according to NYPD data.
NYPD Commissioner Keechant Sewell also characterized the city’s fight against gun violence as trending in a positive direction.
“The NYPD’s work to drive down gun violence in New York City is taking hold – with the number of shootings decreasing across all five boroughs,” Sewell said on July 7, attributing the decline to the number of illegal guns confiscated by the NYPD.
In a radio interview a day later, Mayor Eric Adams also said the city has seen “victories and wins” in its battle against gun violence.
“Thirty-three hundred guns were removed off the streets (this year),” he said on 77 WABC’s Bernie and Sid in the Morning. “We’re seeing a decrease in shootings, decrease in homicides, the largest gun arrests in a 27-year history.”
The rhetoric is a shift away from the distress and fear both Adams and Hochul expressed at the beginning of their tenures. Since then, they have both rolled out a wave of gun-violence prevention measures that they now attribute to the decrease in gun violence.
“Our task force has done an extraordinary job. Just in six months, we’ve had more guns taken off the street than we have in 20 years,” Hochul said Thursday, adding “we’re not even close to being done. We’re not done until the last person pulls a gun in their hand and shoots somebody.”
Crime continues to be a top concern for New Yorkers, polls show, and is a key issue in the upcoming general election. Hochul’s Republican opponent, Rep. Lee Zeldin, has called for “a major overhaul of this state's criminal justice system,” he reportedly said earlier this week, repeating his promise that if elected, he would remove Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, who has faced a wave of backlash over his policies to reduce certain charges and sentences.
While overall gun violence statistics show improvements compared to last year, the city has seen a 15% increase in murders over the past four weeks. Over the weekend, two suspects were shot and killed by the NYPD in separate incidents in Brooklyn and Queens. And overnight Tuesday, four people were reportedly fatally shot in the city in a span of three hours.
Hochul acknowledged that “we have a gun violence epidemic here in the state of New York. Full stop. That is a statement of fact,” she said.
Adams, meanwhile, said that moving forward, the city needs to spend less time “defending people who commit crimes.”
“This theory of catch and release is a theory that is destroying our city and our country,” he said in the radio interview last week. “We can’t allow dangerous people to be caught for their crimes and then released back into our streets to repeat their crimes again.”