Jeffrey A. Butts, Gina Moreno, and Richard Espinobarros
Research and Evaluation Center, John Jay College of Criminal Justice
City University of New York
As in other cities,* many New York neighborhoods did not experience a shooting increase. Most areas, in fact, saw no increase. More than half (57%) of all New Yorkers live in communities that experienced no shooting incidents at all from 2015 through 2021.
Shootings were rare even in areas that did experience increased violence, often involving one or two incidents over the seven years from 2015 to 2021. Other neighborhoods were largely spared from 2015 through 2019, but shootings climbed during the social and economic upheavals of 2020 and 2021. Some areas, however, suffered a disproportionate and chronic share of the city’s gun violence problem.
*Johnson, Nicole J. and Caterina G. Roman (2022). Community correlates of change: A mixed-effects assessment of shooting dynamics during COVID-19. PLoS ONE 17(2): e0263777.
Shooting incidents represent separate occurrences of gun violence in which one or more persons are hit by gunfire regardless of how many victims are involved in each incident. Information about the number of individual shooting victims across all incidents is also available from City sources, but it was not used in this analysis.
To examine the concentration of shooting incidents across New York City, researchers at John Jay College obtained data routinely compiled by the New York City Police Department and disseminated through the city’s Open Data Portal.
To identify areas of New York City experiencing disproportionate shootings, researchers aggregated shooting data by Census Block Groups (CBG). According to the Census Bureau, CBGs are statistical divisions of census tracts, generally containing between 600 and 3,000 people. There are 6,587 CBGs in New York City, not including water areas.
Researchers excluded some CBGs from the analysis because they did not permit reliable calculation of shooting rates, either because they had populations under 500 or did not align properly with existing neighborhood tabulation areas (NTA). Only areas with population counts above 500 and falling 95% or more within an NTA were retained.
Finally, a small number of shooting incidents (7) had to be dropped from the analysis because of a mismatch between the City borough identified in the raw data file and the borough location indicated after spatial aggregation. The final study sample included 6,217 CBGs. Of these, 2,543 (or 41%) experienced at least one shooting from 2015 to 2021.
Most Affected Neighborhoods
The number of shootings reported in each census block group was divided over the 2020 population to create yearly rates of shooting incidents per 1,000 population. Researchers ranked all CBGs based on their rates of shooting incidents and identified the 50 CBGs with the highest rates in each year from 2015 to 2021. All city neighborhoods appearing in the list of 50 highest shooting rates at least once during those seven years were placed into one of three categories.
- CBGs among the highest 50 at least once from 2015 to 2019 that did not experience a COVID-era surge in 2020 or 2021 – i.e. they were not in the highest 50 areas either of those years (N=184).
- CBGs in the highest 50 no more than once between 2015 and 2019 that did experience a COVID-era surge, ranking among the highest 50 shooting rate CBGs in 2020, 2021, or both (N=80).
- CBGs frequently among the 50 highest shooting rate areas (at least twice) from 2015 to 2019 that also experienced a COVID-era shooting surge in 2020, 2021, or both (N=11).
Of the eleven neighborhoods in the third group, seven were in Brooklyn, two in the Bronx, one in Manhattan, and one in Staten Island.
Communities experiencing high rates of gun violence were predictably those also scoring high on measures of concentrated socioeconomic disadvantage, with a high prevalence of female-headed households, and a large number of households receiving public assistance. All three risk factors were significantly associated with total shooting rates between 2015 and 2021 (i.e., correlation coefficients of 0.3 or higher).
Most New York City neighborhoods did not experience high rates of shootings in recent years, but others clearly did. Comparing crime rates across these relatively small geographic areas is important for officials considering where to invest in resources that support public safety and community wellbeing.
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.
Butts, Jeffrey A., Gina Moreno and Richard Espinobarros (2022). Neighbors At Risk. [Research Brief]. New York, NY: Research and Evaluation Center, John Jay College of Criminal Justice, City University of New York.