The number of murders and shootings in Brooklyn declined this year compared to last, bucking a citywide trend, but the number of hate crimes recorded in the borough increased by 41%, according to Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez.
Gonzalez said Friday that while homicides and shooting numbers inched up in other boroughs, with murders up 4% citywide, Brooklyn saw a 16% decline in murders in 2021 with 147 recorded, compared to the 175 recorded in 2020.
The most significant drops were in the Crown Heights and Flatbush: 75% in the 71st Precinct, 60% in the 70th Precinct and 45% in the 77th Precinct, he said.
There were 517 shootings recorded in Brooklyn in 2021, a 20.7% drop compared to the previous year. Significantly, shootings declined in 20 of the 23 Brooklyn precincts, including in Flatbush/Midwood (down 55%), Williamsburg (down 45%), Canarsie (down 36%), and East New York (down 32%). Citywide, there was a 2% uptick in shooting incidents, Gonzalez said.
While the number of homicides and shootings represent an increase from the record-breaking 2018 — with the fewest homicides on record at 98 — and 2019 — with the fewest shootings since record keeping began at 290 — they are comparable to numbers from five to six years ago (146 homicides in 2015 and 520 shootings in 2014), Gonzalez said. He added that although public safety had improved in Brooklyn over the past year, there was still work to be done to recover from the rise in gun violence in 2020.
The decrease in murders and shootings was also reflected in other major crime categories: rape was down 7.3%, robbery down 6.4% and burglary down 16.7% compared to 2020.
However, there were increases in felony assault reports at 6.9%, grand larceny at 9.3% and, notably, hate crimes were up a huge 41.1%. Throughout the year, Gonzalez has prosecuted a number of hate crimes cases in Brooklyn.
In October, two Brooklyn men were indicted for attempted murder as a hate crime and other charges in connection with an alleged anti-gay attack against two men at a Bushwick bodega in September. Both victims were assaulted and stabbed and suffered numerous injuries, including collapsed lungs.
In July, three Brooklyn men were arrested and charged with hate crimes for allegedly attacking Jewish people outside Brooklyn synagogues. Bensonhurst resident Daniel Shaukat, 20, and Haider Anjam, 21 and Ashan Azad, 19, both of Midwood, were charged in the 30-count indictment, which stemmed from two separate incidents where the young men allegedly stated “Kill all the Jews,” and demanded that a Jewish man say, “Free Palestine,” and punched him when he refused, and then chased him and a friend while holding a cricket bat.
In May, Bensonhurst resident Joseph Russo was charged with hate crimes in relation to three anti-Asian attacks that occurred in April and March. The 29-year-old was arraigned on a 19-count indictment, charged with assault as a hate crime, menacing as a hate crime and aggravated harassment in connection with three separate incidents in which he allegedly violently assaulted two Asian women and an elderly Asian man.
However, overall Gonzalez said he was “gratified to report that public safety in Brooklyn improved over the past year.”
He said with prosecutors and law enforcement, and a focus on the most violent individuals and growing partnerships with community-based groups, “we are showing that there are answers to violence.”
“I am hopeful that the progress will continue into the coming year when we plan to put in place new preventative approaches while staying laser-focused on the small number of people who cause harm in our communities.”
Gonzalez said there had been four successful gang takedowns this year, which resulted in a decrease in shootings, and, for the first time, the takedowns were followed up with outreach in the impacted communities.
He said in Bedford-Stuyvesant, the efforts resulted in working groups and a youth summit, which turned into a violence prevention program that will be established in 2022.