New York City has experienced a 20 percent increase in stabbings this year, including a series of high-profile apparently-random stabbing attacks that has sparked fears among the city’s residents.
According to NBC New York, there have been 151 more stabbings as of March 13 of this year than the number that occurred by the same date last year.
Describing some of the apparently-random stabbing attacks that have taken place this year, Bloomberg’s Henry Goldman wrote, “In January, a surveillance camera captured video of a man striding beside a 24-year-old woman on a sidewalk in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood and, without warning, slicing her face twice. In another attack that month, a 71-year-old woman required 30 stitches after a man with a razor opened a four-inch gash on her left cheek as she sat on a subway train in lower Manhattan. On March 10, a man rushed up from behind and slashed a 53-year-old woman’s neck on a residential street in Brooklyn. … Thursday, police searched for a suspect who stabbed to death a 53-year-old man in the East Harlem subway station the day before who was illegally selling MetroCard swipes for access to the trains.”
At a Monday City Council Public Safety Committee meeting, NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton said, “Slashings, stabbings, cuttings, whatever the terminology, what we’ll be doing this year is putting more precision on the definitions that we use to describe these cases that we’re investigating.” He added that the number of attacks is “much lower than we experienced back in the ’90s and much lower than we experienced even a few years ago, but as other crimes have gone down, there’s increased focus there.”
The uptick in stabbings comes as crime in general is declining in the city. Homicides have dropped by 23 percent during the same period of time.
Commissioner Bratton claimed that the spike in attacks stemmed mainly from an increase in domestic disputes in public housing. “We have not identified patterns or any idea that any one person is doing multiple. We’ve had several where two or three were attributed to one individual,” he said.
Criminologist David Kennedy of City University of New York’s John Jay College of Criminal Justice believes that the spike in media reports of random stabbing attacks might be inspirational to potential copycats.
“There’s been a lot of examples of mini-epidemics of so-called copycat behavior, where press attention makes incidents like suicides and school and spree shootings contagious. As I watch the coverage unfold my hope is this attention isn’t causing more of them,” Kennedy said.