NEW YORK —is something we hear, see and talk about every day.
CBS2 has launched an investigation into what’s really behind it — how the guns make it to our area, how they’re used, and how they directly impact all areas of our community.
But we’re also searching for solutions.
A recent Siena College poll showed 76 percent of New Yorkers are concerned they will be a victim of a violent crime.
So what’s causing those concerns? And what can be done to make the city safer?
We are taking a deep dive into the gun violence epidemic and identifying ways to fight the problem.
Watch our full special “Gun Violence: The Search for Solutions”
New data uncovered by CBS2 revealed an alarming spike of gun violence in the summer of 2020.
Years earlier, the problem hit home for one man nearly killed by a bullet meant for someone else.
He told political reporter Marcia Kramer that the person he credits for saving his life was later shot and killed, himself.
When Antonius Wiriadjaja walks down Nostrand Avenue, he says he has flashbacks, flashbacks to that terrible day nine years ago when he was accidently shot when a man started shooting at a pregnant woman in front of him.
“I remember looking up in the sky and thinking, “It’s a beautiful day, but I’m going to die,'” Wiriadjaja said.
Cellphone video shows clutching his chest seconds after he was shot, and later in the hospital.
“They put me in a five-day coma and when I woke up I was the happiest person on Earth, to be honest, but I was also the angriest because I knew that this would happen again,” Wiriadjaja said.
The incident happened in 2013, but his fears are the fears of many New Yorkers today,.
“The person I think of is the person who saved my life. A barber came out of the barber shop and he ran up to where I was and he put his hand over my hand to stop me from bleeding out. A year later, he was shot and killed. Gun violence is an epidemic. It’s worse than the pandemic we have just survived through because it’s continuing,” Wiriadjaja said.
An analysis by CBS2 shows that gun violence spiked in June and July of 2020, reaching record levels not seen since 2006, according to CBS data analyst Christopher Hacker.
“It is definitely, as far back as I’m able to look at data, the biggest jump by far that we’ve ever seen,” Hacker said.
The numbers speak for themselves. There were 967 people shot in 2019, 1,948 in 2020, the first year of the pandemic, and 2,011 in 2021.
The biggest spike in 2020 coincided with the George Floyd protests, the defund-the-police movement supported by then-Mayor Bill de Blasio and the City Council, and anti-chokehold bills passed by the state Legislature in Albany that crushed the morale of the NYPD. In a sense, it was a perfect storm.
“The biggest mistake people make when it deals with public safety is that they don’t realize bad guys read the papers also. And so, when the bad guys are picking up the papers and reading all these things that we’re doing, of which some are calling for the disband the police department, some are calling for not prosecuting gun crimes, the bad guys are saying to themselves, ‘Hey, there’s some real opportunities here,'” Mayor Eric Adams said.
CBS2 research, based on NYPD data, shows gun violence doesn’t affect all parts of the city the same way. Research suggests that the neighborhoods with the most gun violence are often the poorest and most blighted.
CBS2 looked at the number of shooting victims since 2015.
- Bedford-Stuyvesant had 349 shootings
- Brownsville, 333
- Harlem, 244
- East Harlem, 213
- Chelsea-Hudson Yards, 27 shootings
- Upper West Side-Lincoln Square, 14
- Murray Hill-Kips Bay, 11
- South Williamsburg, 9
“So it might be a wake-up call for city officials to think that they might be able to reduce the violence by just fixing things?” Kramer asked Hacker.
“Yeah, by just fixing things, by improving garbage collection, by fixing potholes, by remediating abandoned buildings and removing abandoned vehicles,” Hacker said.
“We have to look at the anatomy of violence and if you look at the 30 precincts where 80 percent of the violence is coming from, this is what you’re going to find. You’re going to find a failing school system. You’re going to find the largest amount of undiagnosed mental health issues, undiagnosed learning disabilities. You’re going to even find that there are even places where you didn’t have a large number of vaccines. You’re going to find the largest number of unhealthy foods, a large number of high school dropouts,” Adams said.
“So what role do you think the pandemic played in the spike?” Kramer asked the mayor.
“I think it’s a combination. We cannot underestimate the role of mental health in this. Young miss got pushed to the subway tracks, mental health, the attacks. We saw people attacking people with knives and other objects, mental health,” Adams said. “Then, the accessibility of the guns, unemployment, all of these things. Being locked up during the pandemic. All of a sudden, the close-down was lifted. Now, you’re out in the street. You’re going to see that violence that has been penned up for a long time.”
The mayor and police officials say bail reform, releasing people charged with serious crimes, also played a role because the bag guys didn’t think they would be punished.
“People are getting caught with weapons in New York City and they’re not facing justice. They’re back out on the street. So the same person you see in the paper all the time, this is the third time he has a weapon possession. He just shot somebody. Why is he on the street?” said Brian Gill, commanding officer of the NYPD Firearms Suppression Unit.
“You have the cops and the good people of the city fighting against everyone else,” Adams added. “It is as though we don’t realize that there are innocent New Yorkers in the city that are doing the right thing, and no one is speaking on their behalf and ‘I’m not going to do that.’ I’m going to do that.”