Crime in New York City

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New York City
Crime rates* (2020)
Violent crimes
Aggravated assault448.1
Total violent crime364.7
Property crimes
Motor vehicle theft28.9
Total property crime703.7

*Number of reported crimes per 100,000 population.

*New York City did not report arson statistics

Crime rates in New York City spiked in the 1980s and early 1990s as the crack epidemic surged,[1][2] and then dropped from 1991 to 2018,[3] giving New York City one of the lowest crime rates of major cities in the United States.

During the 1990s, the New York City Police Department (NYPD) adopted CompStat, broken windows policing, and other strategies in a major effort to reduce crime. The city's dramatic drop in crime has been variously attributed to a number of factors, including the end of the crack epidemic, the increased incarceration rate,[1][2] and the decline of lead poisoning in children.[4]

In a 2019 ranking of 50 cities around the world by The Economist, New York City was judged the 15th safest city overall, as well as the 30th safest in personal safety.[5] In 2018, there were 289 homicides—the lowest number since 1951.[6] Homicides in New York City surged in 2020, but still remained lower than any year between 1960 and 2011.[7]


19th century[edit]

Organized crime has long been associated with New York City, beginning with the Forty Thieves and the Roach Guards in the Five Points in the 1820s.[citation needed]

In 1835, the New York Herald was established by James Gordon Bennett, Sr., who helped revolutionize journalism by covering stories that appeal to the masses including crime reporting. When Helen Jewett was murdered on April 10, 1836, Bennett did innovative on-the-scene investigation and reporting and helped bring the story to national attention.[8]

Peter Cooper, at the request of the Common Council, drew up a proposal to create a police force of 1,200 officers. The state legislature approved the proposal on May 7, 1844, and abolished the nightwatch system.[9] Under Mayor William Havemeyer, the police force reorganized and officially established itself on May 13, 1845, as the New York Police Department (NYPD). The new system divided the city into three districts and set up courts, magistrates, clerks, and station houses.[9]

High-profile murders[edit]

Murder of Helen Jewett[edit]

Helen Jewett was an upscale New York City prostitute whose 1836 murder, along with the subsequent trial and acquittal of her alleged killer, Richard P. Robinson, generated an unprecedented amount of media coverage.[10]

Murder of Mary Rogers[edit]

The murder of Mary Rogers in 1841 was heavily covered by the press, which also put the spotlight on the ineptitude and corruption in the city's watchmen system of law enforcement.[8] At the time, New York City's population of 320,000 was served by an archaic force, consisting of one night watch, one hundred city marshals, thirty-one constables, and fifty-one police officers.[9]

Murder of Benjamin Nathan[edit]

Benjamin Nathan, patriarch of one of the earliest Sephardic Jewish families to emigrate to New York, was found bludgeoned to death in his rooms in the Fifth Avenue Hotel on the morning of July 28, 1870. Police initially suspected one of the family's servants, mostly Irish immigrants; later on Nathan's profligate son Washington was mentioned in the newspapers as a possible suspect (since Albert Cardozo, a relative by marriage, interfered in the investigation). However, no one was ever indicted and the case remains unsolved.[11]


1863 draft riots[edit]

The New York City draft riots in July 1863[12] were violent disturbances in New York City that were the culmination of working-class discontent with new laws passed by Congress during that year to draft men to fight in the ongoing American Civil War. The riots remain the largest civil insurrection in American history (with 119-120 fatalities) aside from the Civil War itself.[13]

President Abraham Lincoln was forced to divert several regiments of militia and volunteer troops from following up after the Battle of Gettysburg to control the city. The rioters were overwhelmingly working-class men, primarily ethnic Irish, resenting particularly that wealthier men, who could afford to pay a $300 ($5,555 in 2014 dollars) commutation fee to hire a substitute, were spared from the draft.[14][15]

Initially intended to express anger at the draft, the protests turned into a race riot, with white rioters, mainly but not exclusively Irish immigrants,[13] attacking African Americans wherever they could be found. At least 11 African Americans are estimated to have been killed. The conditions in the city were such that Major General John E. Wool, commander of the Department of the East, stated on July 16 that, "Martial law ought to be proclaimed, but I have not a sufficient force to enforce it."[16] The military did not reach the city until after the first day of rioting, when mobs had already ransacked or destroyed numerous public buildings, two Protestant churches, the homes of various abolitionists or sympathizers, many black homes, and the Colored Orphan Asylum at 44th Street and Fifth Avenue, which was burned to the ground.[17]

Other riots[edit]

In 1870, the Orange Riots were incited by Irish Protestants celebrating the Battle of the Boyne with parades through predominantly Irish Catholic neighborhoods. In the resulting police action, 63 citizens, mostly Irish, were killed.[18]

The Tompkins Square Riot occurred on January 13, 1874 when police violently suppressed a demonstration involving thousands of people in Tompkins Square Park.[19]

20th and 21st centuries[edit]

High-profile crimes include:


  • April 14, 1903 — The dismembered and mutilated body of Benedetto Madonia, who had last been seen the day before eating with several high-ranking figures in the Morello crime family, the city's first dominant Mafia organization, is found in an East Village barrel, the most notorious of that era's Barrel Murders. After the NYPD arrested several members of the family tied to a local counterfeiting ring. Inspector George W. McClusky, hoping to compel their cooperation through public humiliation, had officers walk them through the streets of Little Italy in handcuffs to police headquarters, a forerunner of the perp walk that has since become a common practice in the city. It backfired, as the men were hailed as heroes by the Italian immigrant community they were paraded past. Charges against all defendants were later dropped for lack of evidence, and the killing remains unsolved.[20]
  • June 25, 1906 – Stanford White is shot and killed by Harry Kendall Thaw at what was then Madison Square Garden. The murder would soon be dubbed "The Crime of the Century".
  • June 19, 1909 – The strangled body of Elsie Sigel, granddaughter of Civil War Union general Franz Sigel, 19, is found in a trunk in the Chinatown apartment of Leon Ling, a waiter at a Chinese restaurant, ten days after she was last seen leaving her parents' apartment to visit her grandmother. Evidence found in the apartment established that Ling and Sigel had been romantically involved, and he was suspected of the killing but never arrested. No other suspects have ever been identified.
  • August 9, 1910 – Reformist Mayor William Jay Gaynor is shot in the throat in Hoboken, New Jersey by former city employee James Gallagher. He eventually dies in September 1913 from a heart attack.
  • July 4, 1914 – Lexington Avenue explosion: Four are killed and dozens injured when dynamite, believed to have been accumulated by anarchists for an attempt to blow up John D. Rockefeller's Tarrytown mansion, goes off prematurely in a seven-story apartment building at 1626 Lexington Avenue.[21]
  • June 11, 1920 – Joseph Bowne Elwell, a prominent auction bridge player, and writer, was shot in the head early in the morning in his locked Manhattan home. Despite intense media interest, the crime was never solved (one confession to police was dismissed because the man who made it was of dubious sanity). The case inspired the development of the locked-room murder sub-genre of detective fiction when Ellery Queen realized that the intense public fascination with the case indicated that there was a market for fictional takes on the story.
  • September 16, 1920 – The Wall Street bombing kills 38 at "the precise center, geographical as well as metaphorical, of financial America and even of the financial world." Anarchists were suspected (Sacco and Vanzetti had been indicted just days before) but no one was ever charged with the crime.
  • November 6, 1928 – Jewish gangster Arnold Rothstein, 46, an avid gambler best remembered for his alleged role fixing the 1919 World Series, died of gunshot wounds inflicted the day before during a Manhattan business meeting. He refused to identify his killer to police. A fellow gambler who was believed to have ordered the hit as retaliation for Rothstein's failure to pay a large debt from a recent poker game (Rothstein, in turn, claimed it had been fixed) was tried and acquitted. No other suspects have ever emerged.
  • August 6, 1930 – The disappearance of Joseph Force Crater, an Associate Justice of the New York Supreme Court. He was last seen entering a New York City taxicab. Crater was declared legally dead in 1939. His mistress Sally Lou Ritz (22) left New York shortly after Crater's disappearance, but was found to be with her parents in Ohio.[citation needed]
  • December 24, 1933 – Leon Tourian, 53, primate of the Eastern Diocese of the Armenian Apostolic Church in America, is stabbed to death by several armed men while performing Christmas Eve services. All were arrested and convicted the following summer. The killing was motivated by political divisions within the church; the ensuing schism persists.
  • March 19, 1935 – The arrest of a shoplifter inflames racial tensions in Harlem and escalates to rioting and looting, with three killed, 125 injured and 100 arrested.[22]
  • March 28, 1937 – Veronica Gedeon, 20, a model known for posing in lurid illustrations for pulp magazines, is brutally murdered along with her mother, Mary Gedeon and a boarder, Frank Byrnes in her mother's Long Island City home. Sculptor Robert George Irwin, who left a telltale soap sculpture at the scene, was eventually arrested after a nationwide manhunt fed by widespread media coverage of the case, said to be the most intense since the Stanford White murder, which capitalized by Gedeon's risque professional work. After doubts about his sanity surfaced during trial, he was sentenced to life in prison.
  • July 4, 1940 – Two police detectives are killed, and other officers injured, when a bomb detonated as they were carrying it out of the World's Fair from the British Pavilion. No arrests were made and the case remains open;[23] investigators today believe it may have been planted by British intelligence as a false flag operation to implicate the German-American Bund and draw the U.S. into World War II, which was not going well for Britain at the time.[24]
  • November 16, 1940 – "Mad Bomber" George Metesky plants the first bomb of his 16-year campaign of public bombings.
  • January 11, 1943 – Carlo Tresca, an Italian American labor leader who led the opposition to Fascism, Stalinism and Mafia control of unions, was shot dead at a Manhattan intersection during the night. Given the enemies he had made and their propensity for violence, the list of potential suspects was long; however, the investigation was incomplete and no one was ever officially named. Historians believe the most likely suspect was mobster Carmine Galante, later acting boss of the Bonanno family, seen fleeing the scene, who had likely acted on the orders of a Bonanno underboss and Fascist sympathizer Tresca had threatened to expose.[25]
  • August 1, 1943 – A race riot erupts in Harlem after a black soldier is shot by the police and rumored to be dead. The incident touches off a simmering brew of racial tension, unemployment, and high prices to a day of rioting and looting. Several looters are shot dead, about 500 people are injured, and another 500 arrested.
  • March 8, 1952 – A month after helping police find bank robber Willie Sutton, 24-year-old clothing salesman Arnold Schuster is fatally shot outside his Brooklyn home. An extensive investigation failed to identify any suspects, though police came to believe that either the Gambino crime family or Sutton's associates had ordered Schuster killed. Schuster's family filed a lawsuit against the city, which led to a landmark ruling by the state's Court of Appeals that the government has a duty to protect anyone who cooperates with the police when asked to do so.
  • October 25, 1957 — Mafia boss Albert Anastasia was shot dead while getting a shave at a Manhattan barbershop. As with many organized-crime killings, it remains officially unsolved.


  • January 27, 1962 — The French Connection drug bust nets 112 pounds (51 kg) of heroin hidden inside a car shipped from France, with an estimated street value of $112 million, the biggest drug haul in U.S. history at that point. The work of detectives Eddie Egan and Sonny Grosso leading up to it was later the subject of The French Connection by Robin Moore, which formed the basis for the influential, Oscar-winning 1971 film of the same name.
  • May 18, 1962 – Two NYPD detectives were killed in a gun battle with robbers at the Boro Park Tobacco store in Brooklyn, the first time two NYPD detectives died in the same incident since the 1920s. The resulting manhunt brings in the perpetrators, including Jerry Rosenberg, who after being spared the death penalty would become one of America's best-known jailhouse lawyers.[26] The case also led to controversy over the perp walk, in which freshly arrested suspects are paraded in front of the media: Rosenberg filed a federal lawsuit over prejudicial remarks made by a detective during his, and another detective, Albert Seedman, was briefly demoted in response to outrage over a picture of him holding up the head of the other suspect, Tony Dellernia, for photographers who missed the perp walk.
  • August 28, 1963 – The Career Girls Murders: Emily Hoffert and Janet Wylie, two young professionals, are murdered in their Upper East Side apartment by an intruder. Richard Robles, a young white man, was ultimately apprehended in 1965 after investigators erroneously arrested and forced a false confession from a black man, George Whitmore, who was completely innocent of the crime. Whitmore was compelled to wrongfully spend many years incarcerated, but he was eventually released after his innocence was established, while Robles remains in prison as of 2013.[27]
  • March 13, 1964 – Kitty Genovese is stabbed 82 times in Kew Gardens, Queens by Winston Moseley. The crime is witnessed by numerous people, none of whom aid Genovese or call for help. The crime is noted by psychology textbooks in later years for its demonstration of the bystander effect, though an article published in The New York Times in February 2004 indicated that many popular conceptions of the crime were wrong.[28] Moseley died in prison in 2016.
  • July 18, 1964 – Riots break out in Harlem in protest over the killing of a 15-year-old by a white NYPD officer. One person is killed and 100 are injured in the violence.
  • February 21, 1965 – Black nationalist leader Malcolm X is assassinated at the Audubon Ballroom by three members of the Nation of Islam.
  • July 14, 1965 - Two children, 5-year-old Eddie and 4-year-old Alice "Missy", went missing. Later that day, Missy was found strangled and five days after that, Eddie was also found dead. The mother Alice Crimmins was charged for the murders.
  • April 7, 1967: Members of the Lucchese crime family, including Henry Hill and Tommy DeSimone, walked into the Air France cargo terminal at JFK airport around midnight and walked out with $420,000 in cash that had been exchanged overseas. The theft, which remained undiscovered for two days, was at the time the highest-valued cargo theft at the airport;[29] it has since been exceeded by the 1978 Lufthansa heist perpetrated by some of the same criminals, including Hill. Both are dramatized in the 1990 Martin Scorsese film GoodFellas, based on Hill's memoirs.
  • October 8, 1967 – James "Groovy" Hutchinson, 21, an East Village hippie/stoner, and Linda Fitzpatrick, 18, a newly converted flower child from a wealthy Greenwich, Connecticut family, are found bludgeoned to death at 169 Avenue B, an incident dubbed "The Groovy Murders" by the press. Two drifters later plead guilty to the murders.[30]
  • July 3, 1968 – A Bulgarian immigrant and Neo-Nazi, 42-year-old Angel Angelof, opens fire from a lavatory roof in Central Park, killing a 24-year-old woman and an 80-year-old man before being gunned down by police.[31]
  • June 13, 1969 – Clarence 13X, founder of the Nation of Islam splinter group Five-Percent Nation, was shot and killed in the early morning hours in the lobby of his girlfriend's Harlem apartment building. The crime remains unsolved.
  • June 28, 1969 – A questionable police raid on the Stonewall Inn, a Greenwich Village gay bar, is resisted by the patrons and leads to a riot. The event helps inspire the founding of the modern homosexual rights movement.


  • March 6, 1970 – Greenwich Village townhouse explosion: Three members of the domestic terrorist group the Weathermen are killed when a nail bomb they were building accidentally explodes in the basement of a townhouse on 18 West 11th Street.[32]
  • May 21, 1971 – Two NYPD officers, Waverly Jones and Joseph Piagentini, are gunned down in ambush by members of the Black Liberation Army in Harlem. The gunmen, Herman Bell (now Jalil Muntaqim) and Anthony Bottom were arrested and imprisoned. Bell was released on parole in 2018.[33] As of 2019 Muntaqim remains imprisoned.[34] In 2007 the two men were also charged in connection with the 1971 killing of a San Francisco police officer.[35]
  • April 7, 1972 – Mobster Joe Gallo is gunned down at Umberto's Clam House in Little Italy. The incident serves as the inspiration for the Bob Dylan's epic "Joey" recorded in 1975.
  • April 14, 1972 – The 1972 Harlem mosque incident: Two NYPD officers responded to an apparent call for assistance from a detective at a Harlem address that turned out to be a mosque used by the Nation of Islam. What happened when they got there is still unclear, but both officers were seriously beaten, and one, Philip Cardillo, was shot. He died of the wounds six days later. Louis 17X Dupree, director of the mosque's school, was eventually tried for Cardillo's murder. After the first jury deadlocked, he was acquitted at a second trial.
  • August 22, 1972 – John Wojtowicz and Salvatore Natuarale hold up a Brooklyn bank for 14 hours, in a bid to get cash to pay for Wojtowicz's gay lover's sex change operation. The scheme fails when the cops arrive, leading to a tense 14-hour standoff. Natuarale is killed by the police at JFK Airport. The incident served as the basis for the 1975 film Dog Day Afternoon.
  • December 1972 — The police department discloses that around 200 pounds (91 kg) of heroin, much of it seized in the French Connection busts a decade earlier, has been stolen from evidence lockers over a period of several months and replaced with cornstarch by someone who signed in under false names and nonexistent badge numbers. Several detectives were suspected of complicity in the thefts; in 2009 Brooklyn mobster Anthony Casso, serving 455 years in federal prison, intimated that he knew who had stolen the drugs.[36]
  • January 3, 1973 – The body of 29-year-old teacher Roseann Quinn is discovered, with multiple stab wounds, in her Upper West Side apartment after she failed to show up for the first day of classes in the new year. John Wayne Wilson, a man she had picked up at nearby bar on New Year's Eve, was later arrested and charged with the murder but killed himself in jail before he could be tried. The incident inspired the 1975 novel Looking for Mr. Goodbar, the source for the 1977 film of the same name starring Diane Keaton.
  • April 28, 1973 — Clifford Glover, a 10-year-old black resident of Jamaica, Queens, was shot and killed by police officer Thomas Shea while running from an unmarked car, which he thought was a robbery attempt. Shea was charged with murder, the first time an NYPD officer had been so charged for a killing in the line of duty in 50 years. He claimed that he saw a gun, a claim contradicted by ballistic evidence that showed Glover had been shot from behind. Race riots broke out following his acquittal the following year.[37] It inspired the opening verse of The Rolling Stones's song Doo Doo Doo Doo Doo (Heartbreaker).
  • January 24, 1975 – Fraunces Tavern, a historical site in lower Manhattan, is bombed by the FALN, killing 4 people and wounding more than 50.
  • December 29, 1975 – A bomb explodes in the baggage claim area of the TWA terminal at LaGuardia Airport, killing 11 and injuring 74. The perpetrators were never identified.[38]
  • July 29, 1976 – David Berkowitz (aka the "Son of Sam") kills one person and seriously wounds another in the first of a series of attacks that terrorized the city for the next year.
  • November 25, 1976 – NYPD officer Robert Torsney fatally shoots unarmed 15-year-old Randolph Evans in Cypress Hills, Brooklyn. Torsney is found not guilty by reason of insanity the following year and is released from Queens' Creedmoor Psychiatric Center in 1979, only to be denied a disability pension.
  • July 13, 1977 – Dominick Ciscone, a 17-year-old aspiring mobster, is shot and killed while hanging out with friends on Smith Street in the Carroll Gardens neighborhood of Brooklyn, the only homicide to occur during that year's blackout. Police investigate several local parties Ciscone was known to have had disputes with but do not identify any suspects. Despite several promising anonymous tips to police around the killing's 20th anniversary in 1997, it remains unsolved as of 2019.[39]
  • September 14, 1977 – Variety reporter Addison Verrill, 36, was found beaten and stabbed in his Greenwich Village apartment after having spent the night in gay bars. After the killer called Village Voice reporter Arthur Bell, an acquaintance of Verrill's, and confessed, he was identified as Paul Bateson, a former radiological technician at New York University Medical Center who had appeared in that role in The Exorcist. Bateson was convicted of the murder and served 25 years in prison; police suspected him in a series of serial killings of still-unidentified gay men whose dismembered bodies were found in bags in the Hudson (inspiring a plot element in the 1980 film Cruising) but no charges were ever filed.[40]
  • October 12, 1978 – Sid Vicious, former bassist of seminal English punk band the Sex Pistols, allegedly stabs his girlfriend Nancy Spungen to death in their room in the Hotel Chelsea. He died of a drug overdose before he could be tried.
  • December 11, 1978 – Lufthansa heist: At the German airline's JFK Airport cargo terminal, an armed gang makes off with $5 million in cash and $875,000 in jewelry in the early hours of the morning. The well-planned robbery was at the time the largest cash theft ever in the United States and remains the largest theft ever at the airport. It was masterminded by members of the Lucchese crime family, including Henry Hill and Tommy DeSimone, who had pulled off the Air France robbery at the airport nine years earlier. Tensions among the gang over how to divide the money, and some members' failure to keep a low profile in the wake of the crime led to the deaths or disappearances of 10 of those involved over the next few months. Many of the killings are believed to have been committed or ordered by Lucchese soldier Jimmy Burke, though no one was ever arrested and charged (not least because many died first). The crime and its aftermath have been dramatized in the films The 10 Million Dollar Robbery, The Big Heist—and GoodFellas, Martin Scorsese's 1990 adaptation of Hill's memoirs. In 2014 Vincent Asaro, a 78-year-old Bonnano family capo was indicted on charges of receiving money from the robbery and conspiring in it. He was acquitted the following year, the only person ever tried in connection with the crime.
  • May 25, 1979 – Six-year-old Etan Patz vanishes after leaving his SoHo apartment to walk to his school bus alone. Despite a massive search by the NYPD the boy is never found and was declared legally dead in 2001.[41]


  • January 4, 1980 – Three Manhattan men suspected of 60 break-ins were arrested by the police.
  • March 14, 1980 – Ex-Congressman Allard Lowenstein is assassinated in his law offices at Rockefeller Center by Dennis Sweeney, a deranged ex-associate.[42]
  • December 8, 1980 – Ex-Beatle John Lennon is murdered in front of his home in The Dakota.
  • June 22, 1982 – Willie Turks, a black 34-year-old MTA worker, is set upon and killed by a white mob in the Gravesend section of Brooklyn. Eighteen-year-old Gino Bova was convicted of second-degree manslaughter in 1983.
  • November 5, 1982 – author and artist Theresa Hak Kyung Cha was raped and killed by security guard and serial rapist Joey Sanza in The Puck Building.
  • September 15, 1983 – Michael Stewart is allegedly beaten into a coma by New York Transit Police officers. Stewart died 13 days later from his injuries at Bellevue Hospital. On November 24, 1985, after a six-month trial, six officers were acquitted on charges stemming from Stewart's death.[43]
  • October 29, 1984 – Police shoot and kill 66-year-old Eleanor Bumpurs as they try to evict her from her Bronx apartment. Bumpurs, who was mentally ill, was wielding a knife and had slashed one of the officers. The shooting provoked heated debate about police racism and brutality. In 1987 officer Stephen Sullivan was acquitted on charges of manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide stemming from the shooting.[44]
  • December 2, 1984 – Caroline Rose Isenberg, a 23-year-old aspiring actress, was stabbed to death in the early morning hours after returning to her Upper West Side apartment from a Broadway show. Emmanuel Torres, the building custodian's son, was arrested at the end of the month and charged with the crime. He was convicted the following year and sentenced to life in prison. The case received considerable national media attention.
  • December 22, 1984 – Bernhard Goetz shoots and seriously wounds four unarmed black men on a 2 train on the subway who he claimed were trying to rob him, generating weeks of headlines and many discussions about crime and vigilantism in the media.
  • April 17, 1985 – Mark Davidson, a high school student, is arrested and tortured in Queens' 106th Precinct on drug dealing charges.
  • June 12, 1985 – Edmund Perry, a returning graduate of Phillips Exeter Academy in Exeter, New Hampshire, is shot to death in Harlem by undercover officer Lee Van Houten after Perry and his brother, Jonah, attacked Van Houten to get money for a movie. Van Houten was acquitted the following month.
  • December 16, 1985 – Gambino crime family boss Paul Castellano is shot dead in a gangland execution on East 46th Street in Manhattan.
  • February 25, 1986 – 2 dead and 4 hurt, including 3 police officers, in a shootout in the Bronx.
  • July 7, 1986 – A deranged man, Juan Gonzalez, wielding a machete kills 2 and wounds 9 on the Staten Island Ferry. In 2000 Gonzalez was granted unsupervised leave from his residence at the Bronx Psychiatric Hospital.[45]
  • August 26, 1986 – 18-year-old student Jennifer Levin is murdered by Robert Chambers in Central Park after the two had left a bar to have sex in the park. The case was sensationalized in the press and raised issues over victims' rights, as Chambers' attorney attempted to smear Levin's reputation to win his client's freedom.
  • October 4, 1986 – CBS News anchorman Dan Rather is assaulted while walking along Park Avenue by two men, one of whom Rather reported kept asking him "Kenneth, what is the frequency?" as he did.[46] The mysterious question became a pop-culture catch-phrase, and inspired an R.E.M. song that Rather joined with the band in performing on Late Night with David Letterman. William Tager, who apparently believed that Rather was secretly broadcasting messages to him, was identified as one of the assailants in 1997 (though not charged because the statute of limitations had expired) following his own conviction for killing an NBC stagehand.[47]
  • November 19, 1986 – 20-year-old Larry Davis opens fire on NYPD officers attempting to arrest him in his sister's apartment in the Bronx. Six officers are wounded, and Davis eludes capture for the next 17 days, during which time he became something of a folk hero in the neighborhood. Davis was stabbed to death in jail in 2008.
  • November 24, 1986 – Two Port Authority police officers and a holdup were seriously shot and wounded in a shootout at a Queens diner.
  • December 20, 1986 – A white mob in Howard Beach, Queens, attacks three black men whose car had broken down in the largely white neighborhood. One of the men, Michael Griffith is chased onto Shore Parkway where he is hit and killed by a passing car. The killing prompted several tempestuous marches through the neighborhood led by Al Sharpton.
  • July 9, 1987 – 12-year-old Jennifer Schweiger, a girl afflicted with Down syndrome, is abducted and murdered in Staten Island by a sex offender and suspected mass murderer, Andre Rand.
  • November 2, 1987 – Joel Steinberg and his lover Hedda Nussbaum are arrested for the beating and neglect of their six-year-old adopted daughter Lisa Steinberg, who died two days later from her injuries. The case provoked outrage that did not subside when Steinberg was released from prison in 2004 after serving 15 years.
  • February 26, 1988 – A gunman shot rookie NYPD officer Edward Byrne while he was alone in a patrol car monitoring a Jamaica street where a homeowner had reported violence and threats against his house. The blatant, deliberate nature of the killing resulted in widespread outrage, with President Ronald Reagan personally calling the Byrne family to offer condolences. Four men, apparently acting on the orders of a jailed drug dealer, were arrested within a week; all involved are serving lengthy prison sentences.
  • December 21, 1988 – Transgender performer Venus Xtravaganza, featured in the documentary film Paris is Burning, was found strangled under a Manhattan hotel bed. The autopsy established that she had been killed four days earlier. No suspects have ever been named.
  • April 19, 1989 – Central Park jogger Trisha Meili is violently raped and beaten while jogging in Central Park. The crime is attributed to a group of young men who were practicing an activity the police called "wilding", with five of these teens convicted and jailed. In 2002, after the five had completed their sentences, Matias Reyes – a convicted rapist and murderer serving a life sentence for other crimes – confessed to the crime, after which DNA evidence proved the five teens innocent.
    The Reverend Al Sharpton leading the first protest march over the death of Yusuf Hawkins in Bensonhurst, 1989.
  • August 23, 1989 – Yusuf Hawkins, a 16-year-old black student, is set upon and murdered by a white mob in the Bensonhurst neighborhood of Brooklyn.[48]


  • March 7, 1990 – 12-year-old Haitian immigrant David Opont is mugged and set on fire by a 14-year-old assailant, who remained anonymous because he was tried as a minor. The attack created an outpouring of support throughout the city for Opont who eventually recovered from his burns.[49]
  • March 8, 1990 – The first of the copycat Zodiac Killer Heriberto Seda's eight shooting victims is wounded in an attack in Brooklyn. Between 1990 and 1993, Seda wounds five and kills three in his serial attacks. He is captured in 1996 and convicted in 1998.
  • March 25, 1990 – Arson at the illegally operated Happyland Social Club at 1959 Southern Boulevard in the East Tremont section of the Bronx kills 87 people unable to escape the packed dance club, the city's deadliest act of arson ever.[50] Cuban refugee Julio González, who was angry about having been ejected from the club, is arrested, tried and convicted of murder and arson, making the crime also the deadliest to result from a single person's actions in the city's history. González, sentenced to 25 years to life, died in prison in 2016.
  • September 2, 1990 – Utah tourist Brian Watkins is stabbed to death in the Seventh Avenue – 53rd Street station by a gang of youths. Watkins was visiting New York with his family to attend the US Open Tennis tournament in Queens when he was killed defending his family from a gang of muggers. The killing marked a low point in the record murder year of 1990 and led to an increased police presence in New York.[51]
  • November 5, 1990 – Rabbi Meir Kahane, founder of the Jewish Defense League, is assassinated at the Marriott East Side Hotel at 48th Street and Lexington Avenue by El Sayyid Nosair.
  • January 24, 1991 – Arohn Kee rapes and murders 13-year-old Paola Illera in East Harlem while she is on her way home from school. Her body is later found near the FDR Drive. Over the next eight years, Kee murders two more women before being arrested in February 1999. He is sentenced to three life terms in prison in January 2001.
  • July 23, 1991 – The body of a four-year-old girl is found in a cooler on the Henry Hudson Parkway in Inwood, Manhattan. The identity of the child, dubbed "Baby Hope," is unknown until October 2013, when 52-year-old Conrado Juarez is arrested after confessing to killing the girl, his cousin Anjelica Castillo, and dumping her body.[52]
  • August 19, 1991 – A Jewish automobile driver accidentally kills a seven-year-old black boy, thereby touching off the Crown Heights riots, during which an Australian Jew, Yankel Rosenbaum, was fatally stabbed by Lemrick Nelson.
  • August 28, 1991 – A 4 train crashes just north of 14th Street – Union Square, killing 5 people. Motorman Robert Ray, who was intoxicated, fell asleep at the controls and was convicted of manslaughter in 1992.[53]
  • February 26, 1992 – Two teens were shot to death by 15-year-old Khalil Sumpter inside Thomas Jefferson High School an hour before a scheduled visit by then-mayor David Dinkins. Sumpter was paroled in 1998 at the age of 22.[54]
  • March 11, 1992 – Manuel de Dios Unanue, a Cuban-born journalist who edited several Spanish-language newspapers, was shot to death at a Queens bar. Several men were later convicted in the murder, apparently carried out at the order of the Colombian Cali cartel on whose activities de Dios had reported extensively, the first time the cartel had murdered one of its opponents on American soil.
  • December 17, 1992 – Patrick Daly, principal of P.S. 15 in Red Hook, Brooklyn, is killed in the crossfire of a drug-related shooting while looking for a pupil who had left his school. The school was later renamed the Patrick Daly school after the principal.[55]
  • February 26, 1993 – A bomb planted by terrorists explodes in the World Trade Center's underground garage, killing six people and injuring over a thousand, as well as causing much damage to the basement. See: World Trade Center bombing
  • December 7, 1993 – Colin Ferguson shoots 25 passengers, killing six, on a Long Island Rail Road commuter train out of Penn Station.
  • March 1, 1994 – During the 1994 New York school bus shooting, Rashid Baz, a Lebanese-born Arab immigrant, opens fire on a van carrying members of the Lubavitch Hasidic sect of Jews driving on the Brooklyn Bridge. A 16-year-old student, Ari Halberstam later dies of his wounds. Baz was apparently acting out of revenge for the Cave of the Patriarchs massacre in Hebron, West Bank.[56]
  • August 31, 1994 – William Tager shoots and kills Campbell Theron Montgomery, a technician employed by NBC, outside of the stage of the Today show. Tager is also identified as one of possibly two men who assaulted CBS News anchor Dan Rather on Park Avenue in 1986.
  • December 15, 1994 – Disgruntled computer analyst Edward J. Leary firebombs a 3 train with homemade explosives at 145th Street, injuring two teenagers. Six days later, he firebombs a crowded 4 train at Fulton Street, injuring over 40. Leary is sentenced to 94 years in prison for both attacks.[57]
  • December 22, 1994 – Anthony Baez, a 29-year-old Bronx man, dies after being placed in an illegal choke-hold by NYPD officer Francis X. Livoti. Livoti is sentenced to 7 and a half years in 1998 for violating Baez' civil rights.[58]
  • October 20, 1995 — Wall Street investment banker Gerard Finneran, 58, of Greenwich, Connecticut, is arrested after his flight from Buenos Aires lands at Kennedy Airport. During the flight, he had, in addition to drunkenly assaulting and threatening cabin crew when they refused to serve him additional drinks, climbed atop a serving cart and defecated on it in full view of passengers and crew.[59]
  • November 30, 1995 – Rapper Randy Walker, 27, better known as Stretch, was shot and killed by the occupants of a vehicle passing his minivan in Queens Village, New York, shortly after midnight. No suspects have ever been identified, but it is often believed to be somehow related to his onetime colleague Tupac Shakur's later death since it took place exactly one year after an apparent robbery attempt in Manhattan in which Shakur had been seriously injured.
  • December 8, 1995 – A long racial dispute in Harlem over the eviction of a black record-store owner by a Jewish proprietor ends in murder and arson. Fifty-one-year-old Roland Smith, Jr., angry over the proposed eviction, set fire to Freddie's Fashion Mart on 125th Street and opened fire on the store's employees, killing 7 and wounding four. Smith also perished in the blaze.[60]
  • March 4, 1996 – Second Avenue Deli owner Abe Lebewohl is shot and killed during a robbery. The murder of this popular deli owner and East Village fixture remains unsolved as of 2013.[61]
  • June 4, 1996 – 22-year-old drifter John Royster brutally beats a 32-year-old female piano teacher in Central Park, the first in a series of attacks over a period of eight days. Royster would go on to brutally beat another woman in Manhattan, rape a woman in Yonkers and beat a woman, Evelyn Alvarez, to death on Park Avenue on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. In 1998, Royster was sentenced to life in prison without parole.[62]
  • March 17, 1996 — During an argument over drug debts, Michael Alig and Robert Riggs kill fellow "Club Kid" Andre Melendez, often known as "Angel" for the winged outfits he wore during the Club Kids' heyday. After keeping his body on ice in a bathtub for several days, Alig ultimately dismembered it and threw the parts in the Hudson River, where they washed up on Staten Island the next month. The pair were not arrested until October, and would eventually serve over a decade in prison after pleading guilty to manslaughter.[63]
  • July 4, 1996 – A confrontation between a police officer and subway patron at the 167th Street station on the D train in the Bronx results in the shooting death of Nathaniel Levi Gaines, the patron. Officer Paolo Colecchia was convicted of homicide, the third time that has happened to a police officer in city history.
  • February 5, 1997 – Ali Forney, 22, a homeless, gay, black, and transgender person who advocated for homeless LGBT youth, was found shot dead on a Harlem Street. The Ali Forney Center was established in his memory. No suspects have ever been named in the case.
  • February 23, 1997 – Abu Ali Kamal, a 69-year-old Palestinian immigrant opens fire on the observation deck of the Empire State Building, killing one and wounding six before taking his own life.[64] In 2007 Kamal's daughter told the New York Daily News that the shooting was politically motivated.[65]
  • May 30, 1997 – Jonathan Levin, a Bronx teacher and son of former Time Warner CEO Gerald Levin, is robbed and murdered by his former student Corey Arthur.[66]
  • August 9, 1997– Abner Louima is beaten and sodomized with a plunger at the 70th precinct house in Brooklyn by several NYPD officers led by Justin Volpe.
  • November 7, 1997 – A Manhattan couple, Camden Sylvia, 36, and Michael Sullivan, 54, disappear from their loft at 76 Pearl Street in Manhattan after arguing with their landlord over a lack of heat in their apartment. The landlord, Robert Rodriguez, pleaded guilty to tax evasion, larceny and credit card fraud following the missing persons investigation. The couple is presumed dead; their bodies have never been found despite extensive searches.[67]
  • January 3, 1999 – 32-year-old Kendra Webdale is killed after being pushed in front of an oncoming subway train at the 23rd Street station by Andrew Goldstein, a 29-year-old schizophrenic. The case ultimately led to the passage of Kendra's Law.
  • February 4, 1999 – Unarmed African immigrant Amadou Bailo Diallo is shot and killed by four plainclothes police officers, sparking massive protests against police brutality and racial profiling.
  • February 15, 1999 – Rapper Lamont Coleman, better known as Big L, is killed in a Harlem drive-by shooting. A friend, Gerard Woodley, was arrested and charged with the murder three months later but then released; no other suspects have ever been identified. Police believe the murder was either revenge for something Coleman's brother had done, or that he was mistaken for his brother.[68]
  • March 8, 1999 – Amy Watkins, a 26-year-old social worker from Kansas who worked with battered women in the Bronx, is stabbed to death in a botched robbery near her home in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn. Her two assailants are sentenced to 25 years to life in prison.[69]


An NYPD vehicle stationed in Times Square in 2005.
  • March 16, 2000 – Patrick Dorismond is shot and killed by an NYPD officer in a case of mistaken identity during a drug bust.
  • May 24, 2000 – Five employees of a Flushing, Queens, Wendy's restaurant are killed and two are seriously wounded during a robbery that netted the killers $2,400.
  • May 10, 2001 – Actress Jennifer Stahl is killed with two other people in an armed robbery in her apartment above the Carnegie Deli in Manhattan. The victims were bound and shot point-blank in the head.[70]
  • September 11, 2001 – Two jetliners destroy the two 110-story World Trade Center Twin Towers and several surrounding buildings in part of a coordinated terrorist attack, killing 2,606 people who were in the towers and on the ground. It is the deadliest mass-casualty incident in the city's history. That night, Polish immigrant Henryk Siwiak was shot dead in Bedford-Stuyvesant, where he had mistakenly gone to start a new job; due to scarce police resources at that time, the crime remains unsolved. It is the city's only official homicide for that day since the terrorist attack victims are not included in crime statistics.[71]
  • October 30, 2002 – Two gunmen went into a Jamaica, Queens recording studio and shot Jason Mizell, 37, better known as Jam Master Jay, a founding member of pioneering hip hop group Run-DMC, in the head at point-blank range; he died shortly thereafter.[72] While some suspects have been identified in the years since, no one has ever been prosecuted.
  • April 24, 2003 – Romona Moore, a 21-year-old Hunter College student, disappeared after leaving home for a friend's house. The NYPD closed the case after two days. Her body was found on May 15, severely tortured; she had been kept alive for a considerable length of time after the case was closed. The two perpetrators were convicted in a second trial after a mistrial was declared following a courtroom attack by one of them. Moore's family sued the NYPD over what they felt was inadequate attention to the case compared to later cases involving young white women.[73]
  • July 23, 2003 – Othniel Askew shoots to death political rival City Council member James E. Davis in the City Hall chambers of the New York City Council.
  • October 15, 2003 — One of the Staten Island ferries crashes into the pier at St. George, killing 11. Pilot Richard Smith, who had nodded off due to the side effects of some over-the-counter painkillers he had taken, fled the scene for his home, where he was arrested after having survived two suicide attempts. He was later arrested, and pleaded guilty to manslaughter the next year, for which he was sentenced to 18 months in prison; the city's ferry director also served a year and a day after pleading guilty to the same charge.
  • January 27, 2005 – Nicole duFresne, an aspiring actress, is shot dead in the Lower East Side section of Manhattan after being accosted by a gang of youths.[74]
  • February 14, 2005 — Rashawn Brazell, 19, of Bushwick, is last seen leaving a subway station with two unidentified individuals. Several days later plastic bags with parts of his dismembered body were found around the neighborhood. In 2017 police arrested a suspect already in custody for another heretofore unsolved Brooklyn homicide and charged him with killing Brazell, who had lived across the street from at the time.[75]
  • October 31, 2005 – Fashion journalist Peter Braunstein sexually assaults a co-worker while posing as a fireman, earning him the nickname of the "Fire Fiend" from the city's tabloids. He was arrested after leading officials on a multi-state manhunt. Braunstein was later sentenced to life and will be eligible for parole in 2023.
  • January 11, 2006 – 7-year-old Nixzmary Brown dies after being beaten by her stepfather, Cesar Rodriguez, in their Brooklyn apartment. Rodriguez was convicted of first-degree manslaughter in March 2008.[76]
  • February 25, 2006 – Criminology graduate student Imette St. Guillen is brutally tortured, raped, and killed in New York City after being abducted outside the Falls bar in the SoHo section of Manhattan. Bouncer Darryl Littlejohn is convicted of the crime and sentenced to life imprisonment.[77]
  • April 1, 2006 – New York University (NYU) student Broderick Hehman is killed after being hit by a car in Harlem. Hehman was chased into the street by a group of black teens who allegedly shouted: "get the white boy." The death of Hehman echoed the death of Michael Griffith 20 years earlier in Queens.[78]
  • May 29, 2006 – Jeff Gross, founder of the Staten Island commune Ganas, is shot and wounded by former commune member Rebekah Johnson. Johnson was captured in Philadelphia on June 18, 2007 after being featured on America's Most Wanted.[79]
  • July 25, 2006 – Jennifer Moore, an 18-year-old student from New Jersey is abducted and killed after a night of drinking at a Chelsea bar. Her body is found outside a Weehawken motel. Thirty-five-year-old Draymond Coleman was convicted of the crime and sentenced to 50 years in 2010.[80]
  • October 8, 2006 – Michael Sandy, a 29-year-old man, is hit by a car on the Belt Parkway after being beaten by a group of white attackers. Sandy died of his injuries on October 13, 2006. The attack, which is being investigated as a hate crime hearkened back to the killing of Michael Griffith in 1986.[81]
    Memorial to Sean Bell
  • November 1, 2006 – Actress Adrienne Shelly is killed in her apartment.
  • November 25, 2006 – Four NYPD officers fire a combined 50 shots at a group of unarmed men in Jamaica, Queens, wounding two and killing 23-year-old Sean Bell. The case sparks controversy over police brutality and racial profiling.
  • July 9, 2007 – Rookie police officer Russel Timoshenko is shot five times while pulling over a stolen BMW in Crown Heights; he died five days later. A massive manhunt led to the arrest of three men a week later in Pennsylvania, who were eventually convicted of the crime. All three were carrying guns obtained illegally, which led Mayor Michael Bloomberg and other city officials to stiffen city ordinances on illegal firearm possession and seek tighter gun-control laws at the state and national level.
  • February 12, 2008 – Psychologist Kathryn Faughey is murdered in her Manhattan office by a mentally-ill man whose intended victim was a psychiatrist in the same practice.[82]
  • March 20, 2009 – WABC-AM radio personality George Weber was found stabbed to death in his Brooklyn apartment during an apparent robbery. A teenage boy who had answered an Internet ad Weber placed was later convicted of the crime.


  • July 22, 2010 – Five members of the Jones family were killed in an apparent case of murder-suicide arson in the Port Richmond section of Staten Island.[83]
  • February 11, 2011 – Maksim Gelman, 23 years old, went on a 28-hour rampage killing 4 and wounding 5 others throughout Brooklyn and Manhattan. He was sentenced to life imprisonment.[84]
  • July 13, 2011 – The body of 8-year-old Leiby Kletzky was found dismembered in two locations in Brooklyn after he was allegedly murdered by Levi Aron.[85]
  • July 31, 2012 – Ramona Moore, 35, disappears after reportedly arguing with Nasean Bonie, her superintendent over the rent on her apartment near Crotona Park in the Bronx. Over the next two years, police eventually developed enough evidence to charge him with her murder despite the absence of her body. It was found in Orange County in 2015, the week before his trial, which would have been the first murder prosecution without a body in the borough's history, was to start.[86] In 2016, a jury acquitted Bonie, already serving time for assaulting his wife, of the murder charge but convicted him of manslaughter; he was sentenced to 25 years in prison.
  • August 24, 2012 – Jeffrey Johnson, 58, shot and killed a former co-worker before being shot and killed by police officers outside the Empire State Building. A total of 11 people, including the gunman, were shot.[87]
  • October 25, 2012 – Lucia and Leo Krim were stabbed to death by their babysitter, Yoselyn Ortega, in their Upper West Side apartment.[88]
  • January 2, 2014 – Satmar Hasidic businessman Menachem Stark, 39, was kidnapped outside his office in Williamsburg, Brooklyn during a snowstorm, the intended victim of a robbery. His burned body was found in a trash bin the next day in Great Neck, New York.[89] Of the four cousins indicted in the crime, Kendel Felix was convicted of 2nd degree manslaughter in September 2016; Irvine Henry pled guilty in February 2017 to conspiracy, hindering prosecution and tampering with physical evidence; Kendall Felix was sentenced in March 2019 to 7 years in prison; and the trial of Erskine Felix, charged with kidnapping and 2nd degree murder, is ongoing.[needs update][90]
  • July 17, 2014 – Eric Garner, a 43-year-old black man on Staten Island, died after a choke-hold was applied to him during a confrontation with police over selling untaxed cigarettes. The incident, captured on cellphone video, showed that the asthmatic Garner had repeatedly called out "I can't breathe!" The case attracted national attention as it occurred three weeks before the equally racially tinged shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. A grand jury declined to indict Daniel Pantaleo, the officer involved.[91]
  • November 20, 2014 – A 28-year-old Brooklyn man, Akai Gurley, was shot dead by rookie NYPD officer Peter Liang during a "vertical patrol" on the staircases of Louis H. Pink housing projects in East New York. Liang was convicted of manslaughter in February 2016; he is currently appealing the verdict.[92]
  • December 20, 2014 – A gunman killed two NYPD officers and then himself in Bedford Stuyvesant, Brooklyn.
  • May 2, 2015 – Police officer Brian Moore was shot in Queens by Demetrius Blackwell after Moore and his partner asked Blackwell to stop while walking down the street; Moore died in the hospital two days later. Blackwell was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison.
  • May 17, 2015 – Rapper Chinx and another were wounded in a drive-by shooting along Queens Boulevard; he died at the hospital later. The killing remains unsolved.[needs update]
  • August 2, 2016 – Murder of Karina Vetrano – Karina Vetrano went for a late afternoon run in Spring Creek Park. Her body was found around 11 pm, with evidence of assault and was ruled a homicide. Chanel Lewis was arrested and tried for her murder and was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.[93]
  • September 2016 – 31 people are injured in a pressure cooker bombing in Chelsea, Manhattan. A bombing occurred earlier that day in Seaside Park, New Jersey, and no one was injured as a result. A suspect in both bombings was arrested the following day after a shootout in Linden, New Jersey that left him and three police officers injured.[94]
  • May 18, 2017 - 2017 Times Square car crash: Navy veteran, Richard Rojas, drove his car on a pedestrian zone. Alyssa Elsme, a 18-year-old tourist was killed and 20 people were injured.
  • June 30, 2017 – Bronx Lebanon Hospital attack: A former employee, Henry Bello, shot and killed a doctor and wounds six other people at the hospital before committing suicide.
  • October 31, 2017 – 2017 New York City truck attack: A terrorist attack killed eight and wounded eleven in Downtown Manhattan
  • June 20, 2018 – Murder of Lesandro Guzman-Feliz: 15-year-old Lesandro "Junior" Guzman-Feliz was killed by members of the Dominican gang Trinitario in the Belmont neighborhood of the Bronx. The death occurred in a case of mistaken identity, in which Guzman-Feliz was mistaken for a member of a rival gang. Public outrage arose when graphic video of the killing began to circulate on the Internet. Video footage shows Guzman-Feliz being dragged out of a bodega by a group of men who repeatedly slash the victim with a machete and stab him with knives. Twelve suspects, all members of the Trinitario gang, have been arrested in connection with Guzman-Feliz's death.
  • December 11, 2019 – Murder of Tessa Majors: 18-year-old Tessa Majors, a freshman at Barnard College, was stabbed and killed during a robbery in Morningside Park.


  • February 12-13, 2021 - Four strangers are stabbed within a 14-hour window along the Fulton Street Line. Two of the victims eventually succumb from their injuries. Police apprehended the suspect in Upper Manhattan on February 13.[95]

Notable recent crime trends[edit]

Late-20th-century trends[edit]

Freakonomics authors Steven Levitt and Steven Dubner attribute the drop in crime to the legalization of abortion in the 1970s, as they suggest that many would-be neglected children and criminals were never born.[96] On the other hand, Malcolm Gladwell provides a different explanation in his book The Tipping Point; he argues that crime was an "epidemic" and a small reduction by the police was enough to "tip" the balance.[97] Another theory is that widespread exposure to lead pollution from automobile exhaust, which can lower intelligence and increase aggression levels, incited the initial crime wave in the mid-20th century, most acutely affecting heavily trafficked cities like New York. A strong correlation was found demonstrating that violent crime rates in New York and other big cities began to fall after lead was removed from American gasoline in the 1970s.[98]

Gang violence[edit]

In the 20th century, notorious New York-based mobsters Arnold Rothstein, Meyer Lansky, and Lucky Luciano made headlines. The century's later decades are more famous for Mafia prosecutions (and prosecutors like Rudolph Giuliani) than for the influence of the Five Families.

Violent gangs such as the Black Spades and the Westies influenced crime in the 1970s.

The Bloods, Crips and MS-13 gangs of Los Angeles arrived in the city in the 1980s, but gained notoriety when they appeared on Rikers Island in 1993 to fight off the already established Latin Kings gang.

Chinese gangs were also prominent in Chinatown, Manhattan, notably Ghost Shadows and Flying Dragons.

From the 1990s till their 2013 arrest by the Federal Bureau of Investigation in a sting operation, an Orthodox Jewish gang led by Mendel Epstein and Martin Wolmark kidnapped and tortured a number of Jewish men from Borough Park and Midwood, Brooklyn in troubled marriages to force them into granting religious divorces to their wives, some of whom Epstein charged up to $100,000 to commit the crimes.[99]

Subway crime[edit]

A New York City 1 service subway car in 1973

Crime on the New York City Subway reached a peak in the late 1970s and early 1980s, with the city's subway having a crime rate higher than that of any other mass transit system in the world.[100] As of 2011, the subway has a record-low crime rate, as crime started dropping in the '90s, a trend that continues today.[101][102]

Various approaches have been used to fight crime. A 2012 initiative by the MTA to prevent crime is to ban people who commit one in the subway system from entering it for a certain length of time.[103]

In the 1960s, mayor Robert Wagner ordered an increase in the Transit Police force from 1,219 to 3,100 officers. During the hours at which crimes most frequently occurred (between 8:00 p.m. and 4:00 a.m.), the officers went on patrol in all stations and trains. In response, crime rates decreased, as extensively reported by the press.[104]

However, as a consequence of the city's 1976 fiscal crisis, service had become poor and crime had gone up, with crime being announced on the subway almost every day. Additionally, there were 11 "crimes against the infrastructure" in open cut areas of the subway in 1977, where TA staff were injured, some seriously. There were other rampant crimes as well. For example, in the first two weeks of December 1977, "Operation Subway Sweep" resulted in the arrest of over 200 robbery suspects. Passengers were afraid of crime, fed up with long waits for trains that were shortened to save money and upset over the general malfunctioning of the system. The subway also had many dark subway cars.[100] Further compounding the issue, on July 13, 1977, a blackout cut off electricity to most of the city and to Westchester.[100] Due to a sudden increase in violent crimes on the subway in the last week of 1978, police statistics about crime in the subway were being questioned. In 1979, six murders on the subway occurred in the first two months of the year, compared to nine during the entire previous year. The IRT Lexington Avenue Line was known to be frequented by muggers, so in February 1979, a group headed by Curtis Sliwa began unarmed patrols of the 4 train during the night time, in an effort to discourage crime. They were known as the Guardian Angels, and would eventually expand their operations into other parts of the five boroughs. By February 1980, the Guardian Angels' ranks numbered 220.[105]

In March 1979, Mayor Ed Koch asked the city's top law enforcement officials to devise a plan to counteract rising subway violence and to stop insisting that the subways were safer than the streets. Two weeks after Koch's request, top TA cops were publicly requesting Transit Police Chief Sanford Garelik's resignation because they claimed that he had lost control of the fight against subway crime. Finally, on September 11, 1979, Garelik was fired, and replaced with Deputy Chief of Personnel James B. Meehan, reporting directly to City Police Commissioner Robert McGuire. Garelik continued in his role of chief of security for the MTA.[100] By September 1979, around 250 felonies per week (or about 13,000 that year) were being recorded on the subway, making the crime rate the most of any other mass transit network anywhere in the world. Some police officers supposedly could not act upon the quality of life crimes and were only to look for violent crimes.

Among other problems the following were included:

Transit police radios and the New York City Police radios transmitted at different frequencies, and if additional help above ground was needed, it could not be summoned because no one above ground would hear the request. Subway patrols were also rigidly scheduled, and it wasn't long before felons (and even the general riders) knew exactly when police would be on their train, or at particular stations. The public perception at the time was that the war on subway crime was failing. In October of 1979, additional decoy and undercover units were deployed in the subway.[100]

Meehan had claimed to be able to, along with 2,300 police officers, "provide sufficient protection to straphangers", but Sliwa had brought a group together to act upon crime, so that between March 1979 and March 1980, felonies per day dropped from 261 to 154. However, overall crime grew by 70% between 1979 and 1980.[106]

On the IRT Pelham Line in 1980, a sharp rise in window-smashing on subway cars caused $2 million in damages; it spread to other lines during the course of the year. When the broken windows were discovered in trains that were still in service, they needed to be taken out of service, causing additional delays; in August 1980 alone, 775 vandalism-related delays were reported.[107] Vandalism of subway cars, including windows, continued through the mid-1980s; between January 27 and February 2, 1985, 1,129 pieces of glass were replaced on subway cars on the 1, 6, CC, E, and K trains.[108] Often, bus transfers, sold on the street for 50 cents, were also sold illegally, mainly at subway-to-bus transfer hubs.[109] Mayor Koch even proposed to put a subway court in the Times Square subway station to speed up arraignments, as there were so many subway-related crimes by then. Meanwhile, high-ranking senior City Hall and transit officials considered raising the fare from 60 to 65 cents to fund additional transit police officers, who began to ride the subway during late nights (between 8 p.m. and 4 a.m.) owing to a sharp increase in crime in 1982. Operation High Visibility commenced in June 1985, had this program extended to 6 a.m., and a police officer was to be present on every train in the system during that time.[110]

On January 20, 1982, MTA Chairman Richard Ravitch told the business group Association for a Better New York that he would not let his teenage sons ride the subway at night, and that even he, as the subway chairman, was nervous riding the trains.[111] The MTA began to discuss how the ridership issue could be fixed, but by October 1982, mostly due to fears about transit crime, poor subway performance, and some economic factors, ridership on the subway was at extremely low levels matching 1917 ridership.[112] Within less than ten years, the MTA had lost around 300 million passengers, mainly because of fears of crime. In July 1985, the Citizens Crime Commission of New York City published a study showing this trend, fearing the frequent robberies and generally bad circumstances.[113] As a result, the Fixing Broken Windows policy, which proposed to stop large-profile crimes by prosecuting quality of life crimes, was implemented.[114][115] Along this line of thinking, the MTA began a five-year program to eradicate graffiti from subway trains in 1984.[116]

To attract passengers, the TA tried to introduce the "Train to the Plane", a service staffed by a transit police officer 24/7. This was discontinued in 1990 due to low ridership and malfunctioning equipment.

In 1989, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority asked the transit police (then located within the NYCTA) to focus on minor offenses such as fare evasion. In the early nineties, the NYCTA adopted similar policing methods for Penn Station and Grand Central Terminal. When in 1993, Mayor Rudy Giuliani and Police Commissioner Howard Safir were elected to official positions, the Broken Windows strategy was more widely deployed in New York under the rubrics of "zero tolerance" and "quality of life". Crime rates in the subway and city dropped,[117] prompting New York magazine to declare "The End of Crime as We Know It" on the cover of its edition of August 14, 1995. Giuliani's campaign credited the success to the zero-tolerance policy.[118] The extent to which his policies deserve the credit is disputed.[119] Incoming New York City Police Department Commissioner William J. Bratton and author of Fixing Broken Windows, George L. Kelling, however, stated the police played an "important, even central, role" in the declining crime rates.[120] The trend continued and Giuliani's successor, Michael Bloomberg, stated in a November 2004 press release that "Today, the subway system is safer than it has been at any time since we started tabulating subway crime statistics nearly 40 years ago."[121]

Child sexual abuse in religious institutions[edit]

Two cases in 2011 – those of Bob Oliva and Ernie Lorch – have both centered in highly ranked youth basketball programs sponsored by churches of different denominations. In early 2011, Oliva, a long-time basketball coach at Christ The King Regional High School, was accused of two cases of child sexual abuse.[122]

In Manhattan, Father Bruce Ritter, founder of Covenant House, was forced to resign in 1990 after accusations that he had engaged in financial improprieties and had engaged in sexual relations with several youth in the care of the charity.[123]

In December 2012, the president of the Orthodox Jewish Yeshiva University apologized over allegations that two rabbis at the college's high school campus abused boys there in the late 1970s and early '80s.[124][125]

Nightlife legislation[edit]

In New York City, legislation was enacted in 2006, affecting many areas of nightlife. This legislation was in response to a number of murders which occurred in the New York City area, some involving nightclubs and bouncers. The city council introduced four pieces of legislation to help combat these problems, including Imette's Law, which required stronger background checks for bouncers. Among the legislative actions taken were the requirement of ID scanners, security cameras, and independent monitors to oversee problem establishments.

It also enacted the following plan:

  • Create a city Office of Nightlife Affairs.
  • Find ways to get more cops to patrol outside clubs and bars.
  • Combat underage drinking and the use of fake IDs.
  • Foster better relationship among club owners, the NYPD and the New York State Liquor Authority
  • Raise age limit for admittance into a club or bar from 16 to 18 or 21.
  • Develop a public-awareness campaign urging patrons to be safe at night.
  • Examine zoning laws to help neighborhoods that are flooded with clubs and bars.

A new guideline booklet, NYPD and Nightlife Association Announce "Best Practices,[126] was unveiled on October 18, 2007. This voluntary rule book included a 58-point security plan drafted in part by the New York Nightlife Association, was further recommended by Police Commissioner Ray Kelly and Speaker Christine Quinn. Security measures included cameras outside of nightclub bathrooms, a trained security guard for every 75 patrons and weapons searches for everyone, including celebrities entering the clubs. The new regulation resulted in stricter penalties for serving underage persons.[127][128][129]

The Club Enforcement Initiative was created by the NYPD in response to what it referred to as "a series of high-profile and violent crimes against people who visited city nightclubs this year", mentioning the July 27 rape and murder of Jennifer Moore. One article discussed the dangers of police work and undercover investigations.[130]

In August 2006, the New York City Council started initiatives to correct the problems highlighted by the deaths of Moore and St. Guillen.[131][132] There was also discussions about electronic I.D. scanners. Quinn reportedly threatened to revoke the licenses of bars and clubs without scanners.[133]

In September 2011, the NYPD Nightlife Association updated their Safety Manual Handbook. There is now a section on counterterrorism; this addition came after the planned terrorist attacks on certain bars and clubs worldwide.[134]



Crime in New York City was high in the 1980s during the Mayor Edward I. Koch years, as the crack epidemic hit New York City, and peaked in 1990,[3][135] the first year of Mayor David Dinkins' administration (1990–1993), but then began to decline. The decline accelerated during the first term of Mayor Rudolph Giuliani (1994–2001), and continued to decline at a slower rate in both his second term and under Mayor Michael Bloomberg (2002–2013).

Scholars differ on the causes of the precipitous decline in crime in New York City (which also coincided with a nationwide drop in crime which some have termed the "Great American Crime Decline").[136] In a 2007 paper, economist Jessica Reyes attributes a 56% drop in nationwide violent crime in the 1990s to the removal of lead (a neurotoxin that causes cognitive and behavioral problems) from gasoline.[136] The Brennan Center for Justice has estimated that between 0-5% of the drop in crime in the 1990s may be attributed to higher employment; 5-10% of the drop may be attributed to income growth; and 0-10% of the drop from increased hiring of police officers.[136] Economists Steven Levitt and John J. Donohue III argue that the drop in crime in New York City, as in the United States generally, to the legalization of abortion following Roe v. Wade (see legalized abortion and crime effect).[136]

David Dinkins[edit]

David Dinkins

The rates of most crimes, including all categories of violent crime, made consecutive declines during the last 36 months of his four-year term, ending a 30-year upward spiral and initiating a trend of falling rates that continued beyond his term.[137] Despite the actual abating of crime, Dinkins was hurt by the perception that crime was out of control during his administration.[138][139] Dinkins also initiated a hiring program that expanded the police department nearly 25%. The New York Times reported, "He obtained the State Legislature's permission to dedicate a tax to hire thousands of police officers, and he fought to preserve a portion of that anticrime money to keep schools open into the evening, an award-winning initiative that kept tens of thousands of teenagers off the street."[139][140]

Rudy Giuliani[edit]

Rudy Giuliani

In Rudolph Giuliani's first term as mayor the New York City Police Department, under Giuliani appointee Commissioner Bill Bratton, adopted an aggressive enforcement and deterrence strategy based on James Q. Wilson's Broken Windows research. This involved crackdowns on relatively minor offenses such as graffiti, turnstile jumping, and aggressive "squeegeemen," on the principle that this would send a message that order would be maintained and that the city would be "cleaned up."

At a forum three months into his term as mayor, Giuliani mentioned that freedom does not mean that "people can do anything they want, be anything they can be. Freedom is about the willingness of every single human being to cede to lawful authority a great deal of discretion about what you do and how you do it".[141]

Giuliani also directed the New York City Police Department to aggressively pursue enterprises linked to organized crime, such as the Fulton Fish Market and the Javits Center on the West Side (Gambino crime family). By breaking mob control of solid waste removal, the city was able to save businesses over $600 million.

In 1994, in one of his first initiatives, Bratton instituted CompStat, a comparative statistical approach to mapping crime geographically to identify emerging criminal patterns and chart officer performance by quantifying apprehensions. CompStat gave precinct commanders more power, based on the assumption that local authorities best knew their neighborhoods and thus could best determine what tactics to use to reduce crime. In turn, the gathering of statistics on specific personnel aimed to increase accountability of both commanders and officers. Critics of the system assert that it instead creates an incentive to underreport or otherwise manipulate crime data.[142] The CompStat initiative won the 1996 Innovations in Government Award from the Kennedy School of Government.[143]

In 1996, Time magazine featured Bratton, not Giuliani, on its cover as the face of the successful war on crime in New York.[144] Giuliani forced Bratton out of his position after two years, in what was generally seen as a battle of two large egos in which Giuliani was unable to accept Bratton's celebrity.[145][146]

National, New York City, and other major city crime rates (1990–2002)[147]

Giuliani continued to highlight crime reduction and law enforcement as central missions of his mayoralty throughout both terms. These efforts were largely successful.[148] However, concurrent with his achievements, a number of tragic cases of abuse of authority came to light, and numerous allegations of civil rights abuses were leveled against the NYPD. Giuliani's own Deputy Mayor, Rudy Washington, alleged that he had been harassed by police on several occasions. More controversial still were several police shootings of unarmed suspects,[149] and the scandals surrounding the sexual torture of Abner Louima and the killing of Amadou Diallo. In a case less nationally publicized than those of Louima and Diallo, unarmed bar patron Patrick Dorismond was killed shortly after declining the overtures of what turned out to be an undercover officer soliciting illegal drugs. Even while hundreds of outraged New Yorkers protested, Giuliani staunchly supported the New York City Police Department, going so far as to take the unprecedented step of releasing Dorismond's "extensive criminal record" to the public,[150] for which he came under wide criticism. While many New Yorkers accused Giuliani of racism during his terms, former mayor Ed Koch defended him as even-handedly harsh: "Blacks and Hispanics ... would say to me, 'He's a racist!' I said, 'Absolutely not, he's nasty to everybody'."[151]

The amount of credit Giuliani deserves for the drop in the crime rate is disputed. He may have been the beneficiary of a trend already in progress. Crime rates in New York City started to drop in 1991 under previous mayor David Dinkins, three years before Giuliani took office.[148] A small but significant nationwide drop in crime also preceded Giuliani's election, and continued throughout the 1990s. Two likely contributing factors to this overall decline in crime were federal funding of an additional 7,000 police officers and an improvement in the national economy. But many experts believe changing demographics were the most significant cause.[152] Some have pointed out that during this time, murders inside the home, which could not be prevented by more police officers, decreased at the same rate as murders outside the home. Also, since the crime index is based on the FBI crime index, which is self-reported by police departments, some have alleged that crimes were shifted into categories that the FBI does not quantify.[153]

According to some analyses, the crime rate in New York City fell even more in the 1990s and 2000s than nationwide and therefore credit should be given to a local dynamic: highly focused policing. In this view, as much as half of the reduction in crime in New York in the 1990s, and almost all in the 2000s, is due to policing.[154] Opinions differ on how much of the credit should be given to Giuliani; to Bratton; and to the current Police Commissioner, Ray Kelly, who had previously served under Dinkins and criticized aggressive policing under Giuliani.[155]

Among those crediting Giuliani for making New York safer were several other cities nationwide whose police departments subsequently instituted programs similar to Bratton's CompStat.[156][157]

In 2005 Giuliani was reportedly nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts to reduce crime rates in the city.[158] The prize went instead to Mohamed ElBaradei and the IAEA for their efforts to reduce nuclear proliferation.[159]

Michael Bloomberg[edit]

Michael Bloomberg

Starting in 2005, under the mayoral tenure of Michael Bloomberg, New York City achieved the lowest crime rate among the ten largest cities in the United States.[160] Since 1991, the city has seen a continuous fifteen-year trend of decreasing crime. Neighborhoods that were once considered dangerous are now much safer. Violent crime in the city has dropped by three quarters in the twelve years ending in 2005 with the murder rate at its lowest then level since 1963 with 539 murders that year, for a murder rate of 6.58 per 100,000 people, compared to 2,245 murders in 1990.[161] The murder rate continued to drop each year since then. In 2012, there were 414 murders, mainly occurring in the outlying, low income areas of NYC. In 2014, there were 328 murders, the lowest number since the introduction of crime statistics in 1963. Among the 182 U.S. cities with populations of more than 100,000, New York City ranked 136th in overall crime.[162]

In 2006, as part of Mayor Michael Bloomberg's gun control efforts, the city approved new legislation regulating handgun possession and sales. The new laws established a gun offender registry, required city gun dealers to inspect their inventories and file reports to the police twice a year, and limited individual handgun purchases to once every 90 days. The regulations also banned the use and sale of kits used to paint guns in bright or fluorescent colors, on the grounds that such kits could be used to disguise real guns as toys.[163] In April, along with Boston mayor Thomas Menino, Bloomberg co-founded Mayors Against Illegal Guns.[164][165] A December 2013 press release by the group said the bipartisan coalition included over 1,000 mayors.[164] As mayor, Bloomberg increased the mandatory minimum sentence for illegal possession of a loaded handgun, saying: "Illegal guns don't belong on our streets and we're sending that message loud and clear. We're determined to see that gun dealers who break the law are held accountable, and that criminals who carry illegal loaded guns serve serious time behind bars."[166] He opposes the death penalty, saying he would "rather lock somebody up and throw away the key and put them in hard labor."[166]

In July 2007, the city planned to install an extensive web of cameras and roadblocks designed to detect, track and deter terrorists called Lower Manhattan Security Initiative.

In 2007 New York City had 494 reported homicides, down from 596 homicides in 2006, and the first year since 1963 (when crime statistics were starting to be published) that this total was fewer than 500.[167] though homicides rose (to 523) in 2008,[168] they fell again in 2009 to 466, an almost fifty-year low.[169][170] Homicides continued to decline, with the city reporting 414 in 2012 and only 333 in 2013.[161]

In 2010 the New York Post reported that NYPD supervisors were under increased pressure to "fudge" crime stats by downgrading major crimes to minor offenses. However, the same researchers that provided the evidence "acknowledged that major crimes were at a historic low."[171]

Bill de Blasio[edit]

Bill de Blasio was sworn in as mayor on January 1, 2014. On January 1, 2018, he was sworn in for a second term as mayor.

Until 2018, crime under the de Blasio administration continued a generally downward trend. In January 2020 robberies were up 39% from the previous year, shootings were up 29% and car theft was up 72%.[172] Likewike, February and March saw 20% increases in major index crimes. De Blasio said that the consecutive months of 20% increases had been caused by recent bail reforms. Some advocacy groups who support the bail reforms accused the NYPD of misclassifying non-index crimes to put pressure on politicians in Albany. While the cause remains a subject of debate, recent changes to stop and frisk may have also had an impact, a view that was supported by former police commissioner Ray Kelly.[173][174]

In June 2020 gun violence spiked to the highest levels seen in nearly 25 years. De Blasio responded that more officers would be on the streets:[175]

"We're not going back to the bad old days when there was so much violence in the city, nor are we going back to the bad old days where policing was done the wrong way, and, in too many cases, police and community could never connect and find that mutual respect."

Unlike the crime increases from earlier months, June also saw a spike in murders, up 134% over the previous year.[175] August saw shootings more than double compared to the previous year.[176]

Police commissioners[edit]

Two of the most influential police commissioners of New York City, Raymond Kelly and William Bratton, helped to greatly reduce the city's crime rate. The New York Times has called both men "the city's most significant police leaders of the past quarter-century."[177]

Ray Kelly[edit]

Ray Kelly

On October 16, 1992, David Dinkins appointed Raymond Kelly 37th Police Commissioner of the City of New York. The national decline in both violent crime and property crime began in 1993, during the early months of Raymond Kelly's commissionership under Dinkins. At the time a firm believer in community policing, Kelly helped spur the decline in New York by instituting the Safe Streets, Safe City program, which put thousands more cops on the streets, where they would be visible to and able to get to know and interact with local communities. As the 37th Commissioner, he also pursued quality of life issues, such as the "squeegee men" that had become a sign of decay in the city. The murder rate in New York city had declined from its 1990 mid-Dinkins-administration historic high of 2,254 to 1,927, when Kelly left in 1994,[178] and continued to plummet even more steeply under Mayors Giuliani and Bloomberg.

The decline continued when Kelly returned as 41st Commissioner under Mayor Bloomberg in 2002–2013. As commissioner of the NYPD under Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Kelly had often appeared at outreach events such as the Brooklyn's annual West Indian Day Parade, where he was photographed playing the drums and speaking to community leaders. Bloomberg and Kelly, however, continued to place heavy reliance on the CompStat system, initiated by Bill Bratton and since adopted by police departments in other cities worldwide. The system, while recognized as highly effective in reducing crime, also puts pressure on local precincts to reduce the number of reports for the seven major crimes while increasing the number of lesser arrests.[179]

Bloomberg and Kelly continued and indeed stepped up Mayor Giuliani's controversial stop-and-frisk policy, which is considered by some to be a form of racial profiling. In the first half of 2011 the NYC police made 362,150 such arrests, constituting a 13.5 percent increase from the same period in 2010, according to WNYC radio (which also reported that 84 percent of the people stopped were either black or Latino, and that "nine out 10 stops did not result in any arrest or ticket.") According to New York State Senator Eric Adams, "Kelly was one of the great humanitarians in policing under David Dinkins. I don't know what happened to him that all of a sudden his philosophical understanding of the importance of community and police liking each other has changed. Sometimes the expeditious need of bringing down crime numbers bring out the worst in us. So instead of saying let's just go seek out the bad guy, we get to the point of, 'Let's go get them all.' If Kelly can't philosophically change, then we need to have a leadership change at the top."[180]

Under Bloomberg, Commissioner Kelly also revamped New York City's Police Department into a world-class counter-terrorism operation, operating in conjunction with the CIA. Prior to the September 11, 2001 attacks there were fewer than two dozen officers working on terrorism full-time; ten years later there were over 1,000. One of Kelly's innovations was his unprecedented stationing of New York City police detectives in other cities throughout the world following terrorist attacks in those cities, with a view to determining if they are in any way connected to the security of New York. In the cases of both the March 11, 2004, Madrid bombing and the July 7, 2005 London bombings and July 21, 2005 London bombings, NYPD detectives were on the scene within a day to relay pertinent information back to New York. An August 2011 article by the Associated Press reported the NYCPD's extensive use of undercover agents (colloquially referred to as "rakers"[181] and "mosque crawlers"[182]) to keep tabs, even build databases, on stores, restaurants, mosques. and clubs. NYPD spokesman Paul Browne denied that police trawled ethnic neighborhoods, telling the AP that officers only follow leads. He also dismissed the idea of "mosque crawlers", saying, "Someone has a great imagination."[183]

According to Mother Jones columnist Adam Serwer, "The FBI was reportedly so concerned about the legality of the NYPD's program that it refused to accept information that came out of it."[184] Valerie Caproni, the FBI's general counsel, told the AP that the FBI is barred from sending agents into mosques looking for leads outside of a specific investigation and said the practice would raise alarms. "If you're sending an informant into a mosque when there is no evidence of wrongdoing, that's a very high-risk thing to do," she was quoted as saying. "You're running right up against core constitutional rights. You're talking about freedom of religion."[183]

Bill Bratton

Under Mayor Bloomberg, Kelly's NYPD also incurred criticism for its handling of the protests surrounding the 2004 Republican National Convention, which resulted in the City of New York having to pay out millions in settlement of lawsuits for false arrest and civil rights violations, as well as for its rough treatment of credentialed reporters covering the 2011 Occupy Wall Street demonstrations.[185]

On March 5, 2007, it was announced that a Rikers Island inmate offered to pay an undercover police officer posing as a hit man to behead Kelly as well as bomb police headquarters in retaliation for the controversial police shooting of Sean Bell.[186]

Bill Bratton[edit]

Bill Bratton became the chief of the New York City Transit Police in 1990. In 1991 the Transit Police gained national accreditation under Bratton. The Department became one of only 175 law-enforcement agencies in the country and only the second in New York State to achieve that distinction. The following year it was also accredited by the State of New York, and by 1994, there were almost 4,500 uniformed and civilian members of the Department, making it the sixth largest police force in the United States. Bratton had left the NYC Transit Police returning to Boston in 1992 to head the Boston Police Department, one of his long-time ambitions. In 1994, Bratton was appointed the 38th Commissioner of the NYPD by Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani. He cooperated with Giuliani in putting the broken windows theory into practice. He had success in this position and introduced the CompStat system of tracking crimes, which proved successful in reducing crime in New York City and is still in use today.[187] A new tax surcharge enabled the training and deployment of around 5,000 new better-educated police officers, police decision-making was devolved to precinct level, and a backlog of 50,000 unserved warrants was cleared. Bratton resigned in 1996.[188][189]

James P. O'Neill

On December 5, 2013, New York City mayor-elect Bill de Blasio named Bratton as New York City's new Police Commissioner to replace Raymond Kelly after de Blasio's swearing-in on January 1, 2014. The New York Times reported that at Bratton's swearing-in on January 2, 2014, the new Police Commissioner praised his predecessor Raymond Kelly, but also signaled his intention to strike a more conciliatory tone with ordinary New Yorkers who had become disillusioned with policing in the city: "We will all work hard to identify why is it that so many in this city do not feel good about this department that has done so much to make them safe — what has it been about our activities that have made so many alienated?".[190]

James P. O'Neill[edit]

On August 2, 2016, James P. O'Neill was appointed Police Commissioner of New York City by Mayor Bill de Blasio, effective September 2016. He announced his retirement on November 4, 2019.

Dermot Shea[edit]

On December 1, 2019 Dermot Shea was appointed Police Commissioner of New York City by Mayor Bill de Blasio, this was effective the following day when he was sworn in.

Dermot Shea

Murders by year[edit]

| style="width: 15%;text-align: left; vertical-align: top; " |

Year Murders
Year Murders
1959 390[191]
1960 482
1961 483
1962 631
1963 548[192]
1964 636[192]
1965 634[192]
1966 654[192]
1967 746[192]
1968 986[192]
1969 1043[192]
1970 1117[192]
1971 1466[192]
1972 1691[192]
1973 1680[192]
1974 1554[192]
1975 1645[192]
1976 1622[192]
1977 1557[192]
1978 1504[192]
1979 1733[192]
1980 1814[192]
1981 1826[192]
1982 1668[192]
1983 1622[192]
1984 1450[192]
1985 1384[192]
1986 1582[192]
1987 1672[192]
1988 1896[192]

Year Murders
1989 1905[192]
1990 2245[192][note 2]
1991 2154[192]
1992 1995[192]
1993 1946[192]
1994 1561[192]
1995 1177[192]
1996 983[192]
1997 770[192]
1998 633[192]
1999 671[192]
2000 673[192]
2001 649[192][note 3]
2002 587[192]
2003 597[192]
2004 570[192]
2005 539[192]
2006 596[192]
2007 494[192]
2008 522
2009 471[193]
2010 534[194]
2011 515[195]
2012 414
2013 332
2014 328
2015 352[196]
2016 335[197]
2017 292[198]
2018 289[198]

Year Murders
2019 311[199]
2020 462[200]
Number of murders in New York City per year from 1928 to 2017, based on the chart
  1. ^ 1928: First year tabulated.
  2. ^ 1990: Highest total to date.
  3. ^ 2001: Not including the September 11 attacks.

Specific locations[edit]

The boroughs of Manhattan and Staten Island have historically had lower crime rates compared to Brooklyn, The Bronx and Queens. Since 2013, the Bronx has consistently had the highest homicide rate among the five boroughs.[201]

The Bronx[edit]

Burned-out building, Charlotte Street

With some of the poorest neighborhoods in the country, The Bronx, specifically the South Bronx, became noteworthy as a high-crime area in the later part of the 20th century.[202] Beginning in the 1960s, White flight, landlord abandonment, economic changes, demographics, and the construction of the Cross Bronx Expressway (CBE) all contributed to the borough's decay.[203]

The construction of expressways in the Bronx, especially the CBE within the South Bronx, divided several neighborhoods and displaced thousands of residents and businesses.[203][204] The already poor and working-class neighborhoods were further disadvantaged by the decreasing property value and increasing vacancy rates. Racial tensions during the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s further contributed to middle-class flight and the decline of many neighborhoods. By the late 1960s, the vacancy rate of homes in the south Bronx was the highest of any place in the city.

The early 1970s saw South Bronx property values continue to plummet to record lows, as the city experienced a fiscal crisis. Primarily, White flight led to abandonment and deterioration of large numbers of tenements and multi-story apartment buildings. This, coupled with a stagnant economy and an extremely high unemployment rate, attracted street gangs and a large number of squatters. This had a domino effect, leading landlords of nearby apartment buildings to neglect their properties as well. Police statistics show that as the crime wave moved north across the Bronx, the remaining white tenants in the South Bronx (mostly elderly Jews) were preferentially targeted for violent crime by the influx of young, minority criminals because they were seen as easy prey. This became so common that the slang terms "crib job" (meaning how elderly residents were as helpless as infants) and "push in" (home invasion) were coined specifically in reference to them.[205]

Moreover, South Bronx residents were reportedly burning down vacant properties, either for scrap or to get better housing,[206] while some landlords were doing the same in order to collect the insurance money.[207] Media attention brought the Bronx, especially its southern half, into common interest nationwide. The phrase "The Bronx is burning," attributed to Howard Cosell during a Yankees World Series game in 1977, refers to the arson epidemic caused by the total economic collapse of the South Bronx during the 1970s. During the game, as ABC switched to a generic helicopter shot of the exterior of Yankee Stadium, an uncontrolled fire could clearly be seen burning in the ravaged South Bronx surrounding the park. By the time of Cosell's 1977 commentary, dozens of buildings were being burned in the South Bronx every day, sometimes whole blocks at a time. The local police precincts – already struggling and failing to contain the Bronx's massive wave of drug and gang crime – had long since stopped bothering to investigate the fires, since there were too many to track.

The 1975 New York City fiscal crisis was succeeded by the New York City blackout of 1977, which triggered massive looting that bankrupted stores.[208] By 1979, many Bronx neighborhoods went aflame and were turned into rubble. Apartment buildings were abandoned or sold to lesser landlords amid rapid urban decay.[208][209][210] Its high schools became notorious as the city's worst,[211] and it was struck by the crack epidemic.[210][212] During the 1970s, the NYPD's 41st Precinct Station House at 1086 Simpson Street became known as "Fort Apache, The Bronx". By 1980, the 41st was renamed "The Little House on the Prairie", as two-thirds of the area's 94,000 residents had fled, and the station house was one of the few buildings that had not been abandoned or burnt down.[213] In total, over 40% of the South Bronx was burned or abandoned between 1970 and 1980; 44 census areas lost more than 50% of their area to fires, and seven lost over 97% of their buildings to arson or abandonment.[214] The appearance was frequently compared to that of a bombed-out and evacuated European city following World War II.[215] The most drastic case of this was Charlotte Street in Crotona Park East—the street had become so deteriorated that part of it was de-mapped in 1974. After President Jimmy Carter personally visited Charlotte Street in 1977, he ordered the head of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to take steps to salvage the area.[216]


Neighborhoods such as Brownsville, Canarsie, and East New York used to be majority Italian and Jewish, but have shifted into mostly Black and Hispanic communities.[217] With the demographic shift that occurred between the 1950s and 1970s, the crime rate in Brooklyn increased and the borough lost almost 500,000 people, most of them White.[218] Those residents moved to neighboring boroughs of Queens and Staten Island, in addition to suburban counties of Long Island and New Jersey.

Central Brooklyn[edit]

In 1961, Alfred E. Clark of The New York Times referred to Bedford–Stuyvesant as "Brooklyn's Little Harlem".[219] One of the first urban riots of the era took place there. Social and racial divisions in the city contributed to the tensions. In 1964, a race riot started in Harlem, Manhattan, after an Irish NYPD lieutenant, Thomas Gilligan shot and killed a black teenager named James Powell, who was only 15.[220] The riot spread to Bedford–Stuyvesant, and resulted in the destruction and looting of many neighborhood businesses, many of which were Jewish-owned.[citation needed] Race relations between the NYPD and the city's black community strained as police were seen as an instrument of oppression and racially biased law enforcement.

On top of this, few black officers were present on the force.[221] In predominantly black New York neighborhoods, arrests and prosecutions for drug-related crimes were higher than anywhere else in the city, despite evidence that illegal drugs were being used at the same rate in white communities. This further contributed to the problems between the white dominated police force and the black community.[222] Race riots followed in 1967 and 1968 as part of the political and racial tensions in the United States of the era, aggravated by high unemployment among blacks, de facto segregation in housing, and the failure to enforce civil rights laws. This contributed to the New York City teachers' strike of 1968, when Brownsville's majority white teacher population clashed with the majority black residential population. Conversely, the mostly white population of Canarsie protested efforts at racial school integration in the early 1970s, which largely led to white flight in Canarsie by the 1980s.[223]

In the late 1980s, resistance to illegal drug-dealing included, according to Rita Webb Smith, following police arrests with a civilian Sunni Muslim 40-day patrol of several blocks near a mosque, the same group having earlier evicted drug sellers at a landlord's request, though that also resulted in arrests of the Muslims for "burglary, menacing and possession of weapons", resulting in a probationary sentence.[224] Though crime declined, violent crime remains a problem in the area.


Starting in the mid-19th century, the United States became a magnet for immigrants seeking to escape poverty in their home countries. After arriving in New York, many new immigrants ended up living in squalor in the slums of the Five Points neighborhood. By the 1820s, the area was home to many gambling dens and brothels, and was known as a dangerous place to go. In 1842, Charles Dickens visited the area and was appalled by the horrendous living conditions he saw there.[225] The area was so notorious that it even caught the attention of Abraham Lincoln, who visited there in 1860 before his Cooper Union speech.[226] The predominantly Irish Five Points Gang was one of the country's first major organized crime entities.[227]

As Italian immigration grew in the early 20th century, many joined ethnic gangs. A prominent example is Al Capone, who got his start in crime with the Five Points Gang.[228] The Mafia (also known as Cosa Nostra) first developed in the mid-19th century in Sicily, and spread to the East Coast of the United States during the late 19th century, following waves of Sicilian and Southern Italian emigration. Lucky Luciano established Cosa Nostra in Manhattan, and formed alliances with other criminal enterprises. This included the Jewish mob, which was led by Meyer Lansky, who was the leading Jewish gangster of that period.[229] From 1920 to 1933, Prohibition helped create a thriving black market in liquor, which the Mafia was quick to capitalize on.[229]

Since 1990, crime in Manhattan has plummeted in all categories tracked by CompStat. The borough saw 503 murders in 1990, but had only 62 in 2008. Robbery went down by more than 80% during this period, and auto theft decreased 93%. Overall crime has declined by more than 75% since 1990, and year-to-date statistics through May 2009 show continuing declines.[230][needs update]


Harlem, a large neighborhood within the northern section of the New York City borough of Manhattan, was once known as one of the worst areas for poverty and crime in New York City and the United States.[231] Although the rate of crime has decreased since the 1990s, crime still is prevalent in the neighborhood, mainly petty theft, drugs, and prostitution. As of 1995, the leading cause of death among black males in Harlem was homicide.[232] According to a survey published in 2013 by Union Settlement Association, residents of East Harlem perceive crime as their biggest single concern.[233]


The early days of Chinatown were dominated by Chinese "tongs" (now sometimes referred to as "associations")—a mix of clan associations, landsman's associations, political alliances (Kuomintang vs. Communist Party of China), and (more secretly) crime syndicates. The associations started to give protection from harassment due to anti-Chinese sentiment. Each of these associations was aligned with a street gang. The associations were a source of assistance to new immigrants, doing things such as giving out loans and helping to start businesses.

Until the 1980s, the portion of Chinatown east of the Bowery, considered part of the Lower East Side, had a higher proportion of non-Chinese residents than in Chinatown's western section.[234] During the 1970s and 1980s, this area had deteriorating building conditions, including vacant lots and storefronts, with fewer businesses. It suffered from many violent crimes such as gang activities, robberies, burglaries and rape, as well as racial tensions with other ethnic groups.[235] Female Chinese garment workers were especially targets of robbery and rape, with many leaving work together in groups to protect each other as they were heading home.[236]

Similarly, crime in Chinatown increased due to the poor relations between Cantonese and Fuzhouese immigrants when the latter group started moving into the area in the 1980s and 1990s. Due to the Fuzhou immigrants having no legal status and an inability to speak Cantonese, many were denied jobs in Chinatown, and instead became criminals to make a living. There was a large amount of Cantonese resentment against Fuzhou immigrants arriving into Chinatown.[237]

During the mid-to-late 1980s, Chinatown began to experience an influx of Vietnamese refugees from the Vietnam War. Since most of the Vietnamese could not speak Mandarin or Cantonese, which was solely used for most social services, they struggled to survive and lived on the fringes of the community. Eventually, many Vietnamese youth within the city started to form gang factions. Under the leadership of a wealthy Vietnamese immigrant named David Thai, who combined many separate gangs into one known as Born to Kill, Vietnamese youths began a violent crime spree in Chinatown – robbing, extorting, and racketeering – drawing much resentment from the Chinese community.[238][239][240][241]


Broken windows theory[edit]

The broken windows theory is a criminological theory of the norm-setting and signalling effect of urban disorder and vandalism on additional crime and anti-social behavior. The theory states that maintaining and monitoring urban environments in a well-ordered condition may stop further vandalism and escalation into more serious crime.


CompStat[242] is the name given to the New York City Police Department's accountability process and has since been replicated in many other departments. CompStat is a management philosophy or organizational management tool for police departments, roughly equivalent to Six Sigma or TQM, and was not a computer system or software package in its original form. Through an evolutionary process, however, some commercial entities have created turnkey packages including computer systems, software, mobile devices, and other implements collectively assembled under the heading of CompStat. Instead, CompStat is a multilayered dynamic approach to crime reduction, quality of life improvement, and personnel and resource management. CompStat employs Geographic Information Systems and was intended to map crime and identify problems. In weekly meetings, ranking NYPD executives meet with local precinct commanders from one of the eight patrol boroughs in New York City to discuss the problems. They devise strategies and tactics to solve problems, reduce crime, and ultimately improve quality of life in their assigned area.

Muslim surveillance[edit]

After the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, the NYPD surreptitiously developed a Muslim surveillance program. When the Associated Press published reports on NYPD's spying on Muslims in New York City and neighboring New Jersey, the program came to light and much controversy was raised. Muslims were spied on in mosques, restaurants, streets, public places and Muslim groups, and websites were scrutinized. It resulted in much confusion and anger from Muslim communities in the United States, as well as support from New York City mayor Bloomberg. The FBI criticized the spying as unhealthy.[243][244][245][246][247] Associated Press won 2012 Pulitzer Prize for the investigation.[248] Later, in June 2012, Muslims in New Jersey sued the NYPD over the spying.[249] However, the lawsuit was dismissed in February 2014 by a federal judge who said that the surveillance of the Muslim community was a lawful effort to prevent terrorism, not a civil-rights violation.[250] The surveillance program was disbanded on April 15, 2014 after a meeting that was held with several Muslim advocates on April 8, 2014. It was also revealed that the surveillance program failed to generate even a single lead.[251]


Law enforcement in New York City is carried out by numerous law enforcement agencies. New York City has the highest concentration of law enforcement agencies in the United States. As with the rest of the US, agencies operate at federal, state, and local (county and city) levels. However, New York City's unique nature means many more operate at lower levels. Many private police forces also operate in New York City. The New York City Police Department is the main police agency in the city.


The NYPD has come under scrutiny for its use of stop-and-frisk, implemented under Rudy Giuliani's tenure as mayor.[252][253][254]

It is a practice of the New York City Police Department by which police officers stop and question hundreds of thousands of pedestrians annually, and frisk them for weapons and other contraband. The rules for stop, question and frisk are found in New York State Criminal Procedure Law section 140.50, and are based on the decision of the United States Supreme Court in the case of Terry v. Ohio.[255][256] About 684,000 people were stopped in 2011.[255][257][258] The vast majority of these people were black or Hispanic.[255][257][258] Some judges have found that these stops are not based on reasonable suspicion of criminal activity.[259]

On October 31, 2013, the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit blocked the order requiring changes to the New York Police Department's stop-and-frisk program and removed Judge Shira Scheindlin from the case.[260][261] On November 9, 2013, the city asked a federal appeals court to vacate Scheindlin's orders.[262][263] Bill de Blasio, who succeeded Bloomberg as mayor in 2014, has pledged to reform the stop-and-frisk program, and is calling for new leadership at the NYPD, an inspector general, and a strong racial profiling bill.[264]

See also[edit]


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