Reports of rape and grand larceny have fallen this year in New York City, helping overall crime totals to stay mostly flat. John Pfaff, a law professor at Fordham University, told my colleague Mihir Zaveri that because crime in the city had reached historically low levels, the current rise may seem more striking in percentage terms.

This year’s numbers are far lower than the high levels of crime seen in 1990, for example, when there were 2,245 killings and more than 5,000 people shot.

Some elected officials have called for an investigation into whether police officers are conducting a work slowdown to make a point to the critics calling for cuts to the Police Department. But police officials have challenged that idea, asserting that budget cuts, a recent wave of retirements and other demands have stretched officers thin.

“Obviously in June our cops were very occupied with the protests throughout the city,” Chief Terence Monahan told Mr. Zaveri in an interview. As a result, he said, shootings “started to climb up” in areas left unguarded.

Both Mayor Bill de Blasio and Chief Monahan, who is the highest-ranking uniformed officer in the department, have said they believe the pandemic is playing a role in the current wave of shootings. Feuds have festered in communities where rival gangs cannot escape each other’s presence, fueling a cycle of violence, Mr. Monahan said.

Experts say it’s impossible to point to a single explanation, but Mr. Pfaff agreed that this year’s protests and economic, social and emotional disruption could be heavily influencing the spike in shootings. But much remains unclear, he said.

“How much of that is Covid? How much of that is social unrest? How much of that is the policing response to that?” he told Mr. Zaveri. “At this point it’s far, far too early to really be able to say.”

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