If you read the newspapers in New York City this hot summer — or if you just walked the streets and saw the covers — you could be excused for thinking the bad old days of 1970s crime were creeping back. This was, the New York Post memorably labeled it, the “Summer of Blood”: Gun crime after gun crime, children tragically shot, a shooting at the Empire State Building. It all added up to a kind of a shooting wave, and to a political case for an eclectic range of policies, from gun control (the liberal preference) to aggressive police stops of largely black and Hispanic young men (the right’s).
One New York Times article described a “summer of shooting, bullets ripping through young backs and spleens, exploding chests and filling lungs with blood.” The tabloids made it a running theme: The Daily News uses a reoccuring graphic, “Violence in Our Streets,” and headlines included “Summer Under the Gun,” “Summer of the Gun,” “Summer of Blood,” and more recently, “Year of the Guns.”
And the local crime spree fell under the long shadow of high-profile national shootings — the Aurora massacre, the assult on a Sikh temple — and the effect was deeply unsettling.
The only problem: There was no shooting wave this summer. There was, as Mayor Bloomberg would probably say if he hadn’t learned not to talk about crime this way, a bit of “statistical noise” in July. June was normal. August was unusually safe and quiet.
According to statistics released yesterday, New York City saw the fewest shooting incidents of any summer since 2004, and the fewest shooting victims since 2007. The year-to-date figures on shooting incidents, shooting victims, and murders down from 2011.
July was, in fact, a high month for shooting victims—189 in total, well over the city’s average for that month. That uptick followed the national tragedies in Colorado and Wisconsin. Any street violence is a shame, and the senseless shootings of child bystanders were truly tragic and horrible.
But this is hardly a “summer under the gun.”