All you see is crime in the city — that is, if you’re Rep. Jim Jordan.
The Ohio Republican will be in Manhattan on Monday to lead a congressional field hearing on violent crime in the borough, part of his party’s efforts to target Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg as the prosecutor brings former President Donald Trump to court.
Republicans have cast the long-running effort to levy criminal charges against Trump as entirely political. Yet the description of Jordan’s hearing suggests that Bragg is in fact “pro-crime” and “anti-victim,” and that the policies he has put in place in a little over 15 months in office “have led to an increase in violent crime” in Manhattan.
The statistics around violent crimes — both in Manhattan and in the five boroughs — tell something of a different story.
According to the NYPD, murders and felony assaults declined across the five boroughs in 2022. And while assaults have ticked up year-to-date in 2023 compared to last year, murders are down nearly 10%. Through the first week of April, rapes and all thefts other than vehicle thefts are down as well.
The citywide trends are mirrored in Manhattan, where shootings continue to decline since a peak in 2021, according to data provided by the NYPD.
Experts say that even if crime were more of an issue in the Big Apple than elsewhere in the country — and it is not, according to experts and data — no single public official can have such an immediate effect on public safety, negative or positive.
“The idea that one would see an abrupt change in crime rate given the policies of a single individual or agency in the city, it's just not borne out in anything I've ever seen,” said Rick Rosenfeld, a professor of criminology at the University of Missouri-St. Louis and the lead author of the Council on Criminal Justice’s January report on crime across the country. “And I've been following crime trends for decades now.”
Jordan announced the field hearing earlier this week in the wake of Trump’s arraignment on charges relating to hush money payments he made to Stormy Daniels to conceal their extramarital affair ahead of the 2016 presidential election.
The House Judiciary Committee, which Jordan chairs, has subpoenaed a former Manhattan prosecutor, Mark Pomerantz, as part of its investigation into the DA’s office’s probe of Trump. Bragg, in turn, has sued Jordan, saying in a lawsuit Tuesday that the subpoena is part of a “transparent campaign to intimidate and attack” him.
In a statement from a spokesperson published on Twitter, Bragg’s office called the Manhattan field hearing a “stunt,” and suggested that it won’t “engage in actual efforts to increase public safety, such as supporting national gun legislation and shutting down the iron pipeline” of illegal guns being trafficked into the city.
Jordan’s office did not respond to an emailed list of questions.
Jordan’s home territory faces a steeper crime problem compared to the five boroughs when adjusted for population. Murders in Columbus, Ohio, whose northern suburbs fall within Jordan’s district, outstrip killings in New York City on a per-capita basis.
Last year, Rosenfeld said, the murder rate in Manhattan was 1.3 murders per 100,000 residents. For New York City as a whole, the rate was 5.2.
In Columbus, that figure is 12.4, Rosenfeld said.
Ohio’s three other major cities have fared even worse, with Toledo, Cincinnati and Cleveland seeing rates of 23.8, 24.9 and 45.7, respectively, according to the nonprofit research firm Wirepoints.
“No matter what, where I looked, or how I did the analysis, the murder rate in Columbus is higher than the murder rate in New York,” Rosenfeld said.
In general, experts say, crime in major cities tends to follow national trends. In the 1990s, every city saw a significant drop-off in crime; today’s yearly totals for serious offenses like murder are a fraction of the height of crime three decades ago, when, for instance, New York City saw 2,605 murders in 1990. In 2022, the murder total for all five boroughs was 438.
More recently, instances of murders, shootings, assaults and thefts jumped in 2020 across the country, moderated somewhat in 2021 and began to come down in 2022 and 2023. Both New York City and Columbus have seen similar arcs. Columbus saw its murder rate fall by a third last year over 2021.
Even so, Columbus’ per capita crime rate is higher than Manhattan’s in every category of major crimes over the past two years, according to data analyzed by Christopher Herrman, an assistant professor of criminology at John Jay College.
In 2022, the rate of rapes was 5.4 times higher in Columbus than in Manhattan, while the rate of vehicle thefts — a nationwide issue — was 7.3 times higher. Both of those disparities were worse last year than in 2021.
Herrmann said that he agreed with Bragg that Monday’s hearing will do little to address the root cause of crime, especially since, as the national patterns show, those causes are national and not local in scale.
“I think a lot of what you're going to see on Monday is just political theater,” Herrmann said. “I don't genuinely think that these people have an interest in crime, crime prevention or crime control, either in Columbus, Ohio, or in” Manhattan.
The hearing, he predicted, will be skewed to suggest that Manhattan is a hotbed of crime.
“And the reality is, you know, none of that is true,” Herrmann said. “The numbers for Manhattan look pretty good. And they're getting better.”
Samuel Lisker contributed reporting and research.