Shootings and murders in New York City have increased this year compared to last, and police officials are blaming marijuana.
While overall crime is down 11 percent this year, there were 54 murders and 170 shootings in New York City during January and February, according to new statistics reported by NY1. That’s compared to 45 murders and 151 shootings at the same point last year.
The 20 percent increase in murders comes despite a record-setting 12-day streak in which the city did not experience a homicide at all. It also comes amid a tumultuous period in the city following the Dec. 20 murder of two police officers in Brooklyn. Police openly criticized mayor Bill de Blasio, claiming that his rhetoric created a hostile environment for police.
In a press conference held Monday, police officials said that the shootings are largely gang-related and have mostly occurred in five precincts.
They also claimed that illegal marijuana sales have spurred the increase.
“We are not seeing that type of issue, that type of violence related to those other drugs, but we are seeing it with marijuana,” New York City police Commissioner William Bratton said at the press conference.
Of the seven drug-related murders that have occurred in the city so far this year, all were related to marijuana.
“These are all rip offs, these are not turf battles. These are rip offs of marijuana dealers, robberies. That’s where we’re coming from,” Robert Boyce, the department’s chief of detectives said.
The department said that a new policy of not arresting people with small amounts of marijuana, enacted under de Blasio’s watch, is not a factor in the uptick in murders and shootings.
A pro-pot activist responded to the officials’ claims, saying that the increase in crime associated with marijuana shows the need for legalization.
“This is a perfect illustration for why marijuana should be regulated and controlled by the government,” Rachelle Yeung, a legislative analyst at the Marijuana Policy Project told DNA New York. “If there has been an increase in [violence] it’s because the government is leaving the current marijuana market in the hands of criminals.”
The head of another special interest group, the New York State Rifle & Pistol Association, weighed in as well, saying that the increase in violent crime is evidence that a restrictive gun law that passed in the state in 2013, the SAFE Act, is not working.
“Elected officials from the Governor on down touted the supposed benefits to public safety the SAFE Act would bring,” association president Tom King said in a statement.
“The gun control lobby followed them up with unsubstantiated claims a lazy media did not bother to investigate. Yet when the facts come out disproving their assertions, both the politicians and antigun lobbyists are silent.”