by Jeffrey A. Butts and Richard Espinobarros
October 26, 2021
JohnJayREC DataBits 2021-03

Reports from May and August 2021 pointed to slight reductions in New York City’s recent surge of “shooting incidents” (see the definition below). The number of shooting incidents (referred to here simply as shootings) was higher in 2020 and 2021 than in 2019, but the rate of increase appeared to be slowing. The degree of change varied across areas of the city.

New data released by the New York City Police Department measure all shootings through September 2021, allowing researchers to examine shootings by calendar quarter. Crime data fluctuate considerably, making interpretation of weekly or monthly trends challenging. Shootings also follow a clear seasonal pattern (increasing in Spring and Summer before falling through Winter). Analyzing data by quarter is preferable.

Number of Shootings Across All Areas of New York City by Calendar Quarter: January 2006 to September 2021

The analysis demonstrates that shootings fell considerably from 2013 through 2019, perhaps aided by City investments in violence prevention efforts. A sharp increase in shootings appeared in the second quarter of 2020, just as the COVID-19 pandemic emerged in the United States and elsewhere.

Shooting Incidents in Second and Third Calendar Quarters Only (April–September): 2019, 2020, and 2021

An accurate year-to-year comparison before and after 2020 would focus on the second and third quarters alone (April-September), excluding the pre-pandemic first quarter of 2020 (January-March). In the second and third quarters of 2020, citywide shootings were more than double the number of shootings in 2019 (995 versus 458, or 117% higher). In 2021, shootings were still twice as high as 2019 citywide (943 versus 458, or 106% higher), only slightly better than in 2020.

Some area trends were more encouraging. The surge in shootings seemed to be declining in Brooklyn, Queens, and Staten Island. Shootings were more common in the second and third quarters of 2021 than in the same period of 2019, but the degree of difference was smaller than in 2020. The relative increase over 2019 fell between 2020 and 2021 in Brooklyn (from 149% to 83%), Queens (from 108% to 100%), and Staten Island (from 100% to 62%).

In the Bronx and Manhattan, the shooting surge appeared to be continuing. In those two boroughs, the number of shootings in the second and third quarters of 2021 exceeded the same two quarters in 2020. Shootings in 2021 outnumbered those in 2019 by 141% in the Bronx and 111% in Manhattan.

Number of Shooting Incidents in Five NYC Boroughs by Calendar Quarter (2006 Quarter 1 through 2021 Quarter 3)

Total Annual Shooting Incidents in New York City: 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020, and estimated 2021

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Notes: The New York City Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice (MOCJ) provided funding support for this analysis, but all conclusions are those of the authors. Funders and partners of the Research and Evaluation Center are not responsible for any findings presented in Center publications.

Data Source: Shooting incident data were compiled by the New York City Police Department, disseminated on the NYC Open Data Portal, and analyzed by the John Jay College Research and Evaluation Center. Shooting incident data measure separate incidents in which one or more persons were hit by gunfire in New York City regardless of how many victims were involved in each incident. Data measuring the number of individual shooting victims across all incidents are available from NYPD but not used in this analysis. To aggregate shooting data by borough, researchers used Neighborhood Tabulation Area (NTA) boundaries in the NYC Open Data Portal.