New York City’s Shooting Surge Hit Black and Hispanic Communities Hardest


The number of shooting victims in New York City more than doubled in 2020, with low-income and minority communities hardest hit by gun violence.

New York Police Department officials say the surge in shootings this year is greater than any rise the city has seen in years, and it has been exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic. Between Jan. 1 and Dec. 20, the city recorded 1,824 shooting victims, up nearly 104% from 896 during the same period a year earlier, according to NYPD data.

The number of shootings increased to 1,493 for the year so far, compared with 754 for the same time in 2019, the data showed. A single shooting could end up with more than one victim, which accounts for the difference in totals between victims and incidents.

The Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice said people of color accounted for most of the victims.

An analysis of NYPD data by that office showed that 1,440 of 1,495 shooting victims between Jan. 1 to Oct. 1, or 96%, were either Black or Hispanic. During that period, 29 shooting victims were white.

While the number of victims has increased in 2020, the racial breakdown of shooting victims follows patterns in previous years, the analysis showed.

Eight low-income neighborhoods, including six in Brooklyn and two in the Bronx, have the highest number of shootings of any neighborhoods in the city, according to the analysis. Gun violence has been a persistent and longstanding problem in those neighborhoods, which include the Brownsville and East New York sections of Brooklyn and parts of the South Bronx. The eight neighborhoods accounted for the most shootings in the city in 2019 and in 1993, according to the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice.

Residents said gun violence has a devastating effect on families and communities. “It destroys your life,” said Natasha Christopher, a resident of the Cypress Hills section of Brooklyn. Her 14-year-old son, Akeal, was fatally shot in 2012 while walking home from a high school graduation party in the Bushwick section of Brooklyn. His killing hasn’t been solved.

Natasha Christopher’s 14-year-old son, Akeal, was fatally shot in 2012 while walking home from a party in Brooklyn’s Bushwick section.



Photo:

Natasha Christopher

Ms. Christopher said she suffered from depression and post-traumatic stress after her son’s death. She left her job as a medical assistant and her two other sons began to struggle in school. Her family took years to recover, she said, adding that she is still wrestling with grief.

Since about a year after her son’s death, Ms. Christopher has worked as a family outreach specialist with Brooklyn-based nonprofit the 67th Precinct Clergy, where she connects family members of shooting victims with financial support, psychiatric care and burial assistance. She is currently working with 50 families around the city, she said, all of them Black or Hispanic.

NYPD officials have attributed this year’s rise in shootings in part to gang activity, which is often concentrated in poor neighborhoods where shootings are more prevalent. NYPD Chief of Detectives Rodney Harrison said in a recent interview that officers would concentrate on arresting gang leaders in an attempt to address the issue.

Jessica Mofield, executive director of New York City’s Office to Prevent Gun Violence, said a range of factors related to poverty and racism have made poor and minority neighborhoods particularly vulnerable to gun violence during the coronavirus pandemic.

“This is so much more than just about the guns,” Ms. Mofield said. “It’s about the economic conditions and the social conditions that we see people in.”

Ms. Mofield said access to health care, education and jobs should be provided in low-income communities as a preventive measure to stop gun violence.

Flowers and candles placed at an apartment building in August formed a memorial for a New York City shooting victim.



Photo:

Bebeto Matthews/Associated Press

Additional plans are expected to be developed next year to address gun violence, including programs for minority communities, NYPD officials said.

Police have struggled to make arrests and close cases for many crimes during the pandemic, and Chief Harrison has cited hurdles associated with the virus as part of the challenge to making arrests, including the increased use of masks, which obscure faces and hinder the ability of police to identify shooters from video.

NYPD officials have said that officers began closing more cases in the second half of the year and police statistics show that arrests for crimes related to guns have been increasing since the summer.

Ms. Christopher said that the NYPD should be doing more to solve shooting cases, and that communities with high levels of gun violence need more services to help residents overcome trauma and break cycles of crime.

“The mothers like me, who lost their children, are part of a club we never wanted to belong to,” she said. “There are a lot of unsolved cases in our group and we feel like our children were forgotten.”

Write to Ben Chapman at Ben.Chapman@wsj.com

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