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Updated: January 3, 2024, 7:38 PM

NYPD struggling to fight auto thefts, officer assaults, while serious crime drops

By Anthony M. DeStefano

Mayor Eric Adams and NYPD brass applauded Wednesday declines in violent and serious crimes in 2023, but acknowledged continuing problems with auto theft, with gangs that operate on Long Island and throughout the metropolitan area fueling the rise.

Speaking at a news conference on year-end crime statistics, Adams and NYPD Commissioner Edward Caban said 2023 saw drops in shootings of over 24% compared with the prior year, as well as a decline of 13% in homicides.

“I want to be clear, shootings were down in all five boroughs,” said Adams, adding that five of the seven major felonies, such as homicide, rape and burglary, saw reductions. “This is the finest police department on the globe and nobody does it better,” Adams said.

The combined effect, Adams argued, was that the drop in crime has contributed to a new revival for the city because “crime is down, jobs are up and tourists are back.”

But Adams didn't note that the overall drop in crime for the city was only 0.3 % last year, a figure impacted by persistent increases in auto theft — up 13.7% in 2023 — and felony assaults, especially on police officers.

Chief Michael LiPetri, head of the NYPD’s Office of Crime Control Strategies, said auto thefts are “a struggle” for the department, worsened by prior problems with software that allowed thieves to gain easy entry to certain makes of cars.

But he noted the crime of auto theft is not one eligible for bail under new state laws. Consequently, suspects are often released soon after their arrests, LiPetri noted.

The NYPD is supplementing staffing on auto larceny units, while the detective bureau is doing deep dives into crews of car thieves operating in the metropolitan area, LiPetri said.

Separately, Chief of Detectives Joseph Kenny told Newsday there are gangs that have targeted homes in Long Island with break-ins to get key fobs so that sought-after vehicles can be stolen from the homes. Kenny said the gangs are also operating in Westchester and New Jersey, and involve a core of about 50 suspects.

Adams, noting the 40% rise last year in assaults on police officers, said officers are confronting the view among some in the city that their authority shouldn't be respected.

PBA President Patrick Hendry said in a statement: “New York City police officers are getting viciously attacked and injured because of the message on the streets. The message is that the system favors criminals over cops. Criminals who assault police officers are seeing no jail time, while cops are getting buried with paperwork and hammered with civilian complaints for doing our job.”