Packing Heat in the Heat: Is NYC Back in the 'Bad, Old Days'?

We’ve been calling it the “Summer of Guns”—17 people shot in a single, New York City day, on the 4th of July holiday.  A 4 year old boy killed, playing near a Bronx  basketball court. A cop shot in both legs in Queens.  Is NYC returning to the ‘bad old days’?

“It does seem like an explosion of violence this summer, compared to the last, twenty years,” observed New York Times columnist, Jim Dwyer, during an interview with PIX 11.  But Dwyer--and others--pointed out it was even worse in the late 80’s and early 90’s, during the crack cocaine epidemic. 

PIX 11 traveled to South Jamaica, Queens, to the site where a young, rookie police officer named Edward Byrne was executed on February 26, 1988, just nine days after his 22nd birthday.

The four thugs who plotted to kill him were acting on orders from jailed drug enforcer Howard “Pappy” Mason.  Mason was trying to send a message to cops—and the community—that the crack lords were king. 

“That single event, it turned the tables on everything we were doing,” said retired NYPD detective, Michael Zotto, who was himself a rookie cop when Officer Edward Byrne was killed.

Zotto recalled how the NYPD formed TNT’s—Tactical Narcotics Teams—to root out dealers in crack-infested communities. Former Mayor, Ed Koch, told PIX 11, “When you have more crime, you have more guns.”

After the city’s homicide rate peaked at 2,245 in 1990, then-Mayor, David Dinkins, hired thousands of new cops.  In 1994, Mayor Rudy Giuliani made aggressive policing a cornerstone of his Administration, and by 2001, homicides and robberies were down 76 percent in New York City.  The Bloomberg Administration has kept the homicide rate down. 

Zotto blamed the new wave of gun violence on several factors, “I think, personally, there’s a breakdown of family,” Zotto told PIX 11.  “I think economics is involved.  Lack of jobs.”

The latest NYPD statistics through August 12th show 1,095 people have been shot this year, so far, in New York City.  That’s a seven percent increase from the same period in 2011.  But gun deaths are down.