By Bob Tannenhauser
Do you think Upper West Side crime rates are rising, and are you more fearful for your safety? In a recent article in the Rag we traced the incidents of various categories of crimes on the Upper West Side over four decades to compare the perception of those who believe crime is on the rise with actual crime statistics. Taking the long view, we found (starting with 1990 to today), crime rates in the neighborhood have “fallen dramatically in the seven felony categories: murder, rape, robbery, felony assault, burglary, grand larceny and auto theft.”
But perception and reality are not always the same. A recent Spectrum News/Sienna College Poll questioned 1,000 demographically diverse New York City residents about crime and other issues. According to the data, 70% of those polled felt less safe since the pandemic, 76% are concerned that they could be the victim of a violent crime, and 69% are concerned that a shooting targeting people based upon ethnicity, race or religion will happen in their neighborhood.
We also looked at the most recent New York Police Department crime statistics, for the city and for the Upper West Side (24th, 20th and Central Park Precincts), to see if the data confirms the perception of an increase in violent crimes or threats of violence – namely, murder, rape, and assault. (The other felony categories involve theft of property).
Here’s what the numbers show: Citywide, crimes involving violence against people fell from over 118,000 incidents in 2000 to over 75,000 in 2021. But this year, over 67,000 violent crimes were recorded from January 1 to August 9, compared to over 56,000 for the same period in 2021.
On the Upper West Side violent crimes fell from over 1,800 in 2000 to slightly over 1,000 in 2021. But looking at 2022 through August 9, over 938 violent crimes were recorded, compared to 788 for the same period in 2021.
The data show that, both citywide and on the Upper West Side, the number of violent crimes reported in 2021 was fairly close to 2019 pre-pandemic levels, while 2022 shows some slight trending upward.
In our look at crime statistics last month, Jeffrey Butts, a research professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, offered some cautionary analysis, noting that crime rates fluctuate constantly, and “You never understand the history of something until you can look at it with a little bit of distance.” So, we’ll keep monitoring but will also wait to see if and when new trends emerge.