Whether or not crime in New York City is as bad as the media likes to portray it is a complicated issue, with the actual crime statistics fluctuating, but overall seemingly they are heading in a downward trend, and are far better in comparison to other major cities across the nation.
Headlines like to call out the ugliest parts of the news, focusing on crime and death and glossing over happier stories and good news because, frankly, that’s what makes papers sell. But is the crime rate really as bad as the news makes it out to be—especially in crowded places like New York City? According to AP News, it’s a little more complicated than that, with the actual crime statistics fluctuating but overall seemingly heading towards a downward trend.
Recently, New York City got wrapped up in a slew of terrifying headlines. A 19-year-old fast-food cashier was shot to death, a 40-year-old woman was murdered at a subway station in Times Square, and a baby ended up in the hospital after being the victim of a stray bullet. Individually, these stories are heartbreaking and frightening, but these headlines don’t paint the entire picture.
While focusing on the bad stuff makes more money than the good stuff (as the 2014 Jake Gyllenhaal film, Nightcrawler so perfectly examined), all the negative headlines don’t do any good when it comes to making people feel safer in the place where they live. The Mayor of New York City is Eric Adams, a former police captain who won his seat after delivering a tough-on-crime message during his campaign. It is Adams’ belief that the officials of New York are not just fighting crime but also fear and the perception of crime.
While the actual crime statistics in New York City are way lower than they were 30 years ago, people’s view of New York as a dangerous city has not gone down, likely, thanks in a big way, to the media. In 2020 and 2022, violence spiked nationwide as the United States dealt with the aftermath of the killing of George Floyd and as dunderheads in political office encouraged the rise of white supremacy groups. These events created hay days for the media, inspiring thousands of headlines, which in turn incited more anger and fear amongst the people.
However, despite the depiction of United States cities being vortexes of danger, the statistics show that violence is going in a downward trend, at least in New York City anyway. While, like the rest of the country, New York saw a rise in violence during the pandemic era, and killings in the city rose to 488 in 2021 (up by 59 percent from the year before), the numbers were still significantly lower than they were in the 90s when New York saw about 2,000 killings on average per year.
Additionally, even though New York City is the most populated city in the country, the homicide rate in the Big Apple is less than the next six most populated metropolises (Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston, Phoenix, Philadelphia, and San Antonio). The homicide rate in New York is also less than smaller incorporations like Jacksonville, Florida; Fort Worth, Texas; and Tulsa, Oklahoma.
While crime rates have trended upward during the unrest of the last couple of years, from an optimistic perspective, the fact that the rates are still significantly lower than they once were, and the fact that city officials are under fire to continue being tough on crime, is promising that overall, New York City will see a downward trend in violence, despite the frequent disturbing media headlines.