City & State — Reviewing Lee Zeldin’s focus on crime in New York City

A fact check on the Congress member and GOP candidate for governor’s strongest talking point.


… It’s important to compare crime data over time. The city’s crime rate has been on a decline over the last three decades, and despite Zeldin’s rhetoric, New York City is still in a relatively safe period, historically. In 2021, the city data showed major felony reports were fairly consistent with 2010 numbers. That’s when Michael Bloomberg, who was elected as a Republican, said NYC was the safest big city in America. Even amid a 30% escalation in the past year, crime is still significantly lower than where it was in 1990.

“Violent crime was twice the rate in the mid-90s as it is now,” Jeffrey Butts, research professor and director of the Research & Evaluation Center at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, told City & State.

… Butts points out that according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which tracks deaths due to violence, New York’s deaths per 100,000 people are much lower than other smaller rural and suburban communities. “In the Bronx the average rate of those violent deaths over the last few years is 7 deaths per 100,000 population. In Queens, it’s 3 per 100,000,” he told City & State. “ Now, let me take you to Jefferson County, Arkansas, with a population of 70,000 people. They have a rate of 38 – 10 times the size of the rate in Queens. In Robeson County, North Carolina, which has a population of 130,000, the rate is 24 per 100,000.”

“Why aren’t we talking about small counties in Arkansas and North Carolina when we’re talking about violent crime and violent death? Because they suffer it at a rate way out of whack compared to New York City,” Butts added.

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