Analysis: What’s Really Driving Crime in New York

New Yorkers United for Justice’s (NYUJ) latest research analysis—What’s (Really) Driving Crime in New York—examines possible causes for the recent uptick in certain categories of violent crime New York State experienced in 2020, while debunking the assertions that New York’s criminal legal reforms—including the bail reform of 2018—caused these increases.

The rise in certain categories of violent crime, most notably gun-related homicides and shootings, in New York State has created public concern and widespread speculation about its causes. Some local opponents of criminal justice reform are pouncing on the increase in some crimes to stoke fear, slow progress, and double down on failed, outmoded policies. And yet the increase in homicides—particularly those using guns—is national in scope, affecting communities big and small, and those that have instituted criminal justice reforms, as well as those that have not. 

The increase in homicides coupled with the decreases in other crime categories suggests that novel factors, rather than well-studied criminal justice reforms, are at work. A careful look at the data, set in the context of national and world events, reveals that a complex blend of factors is likely at play—including the COVID-19 pandemic and its significant economic impacts, a drastic increase in gun sales, and the racial reckoning and discourse on policing that have contributed to a deterioration of police and community relations.