By Bennett Liebman
Government Lawyer in Residence
Government Law Center
Albany Law School
This post updates our 2016 article on what the statistics tell us about crime in New York State. The post answers questions on the trends and status of crime in New York State. The most recent statistics are for New York State in 2015.
- Is crime increasing in New York State? Despite talk of an uptick in crime, total crime in New York State was down by 4.8%. There was an increase in violent crime of 3.5% but a decrease of 6.6% in non-violent property crime.
- What have been the changes in the New York State crime rate over the years? Overall crime in New York State has decreased by 18.3% since 2006. Violent crime has decreased by 10.6%. In New York City, overall crime has decreased since 2006 by 12.4% with violent crime decreasing by 3.8% over that time period. Outside of New York City, overall crime since 2006 has decreased by 22.8% with violent crime down by 21.8%.
The number of crimes decreased in New York State by 65.7% in the 25 years from 1990-2015. The crime rate – which reflects changes in the population – fell by 68.2%. The violent crime rate and the property crime rate declined over that period of time by similar amounts. The violent crime rate declined by 67.8%, and the property crime rate decreased by 69.1%.
Looking at 50 years’ worth of data, the current crime rate in New York State is currently at its lowest level. The crime rate is 35.3% lower than it was in 1965. Violent crime is, however, 16.7% higher than it was in 1965. The major decrease has been in property crime. Nonetheless, the last time in the 20th century that the violent crime rate in New York State was lower than it was in 2014 and 2015 was in 1966.
Violent crime in New York State hit its peak in 1990. It has decreased steadily most every year since 1990. Overall crime peaked in New York State in 1980. 1980, 1981, and 1982 represent the highest overall years for overall crime rates.
Perhaps the most noticeable number involves the homicide rate in New York State. It has decreased by 78.6% since 1990. The number of homicides in New York City decreased from 2,245 in 1990 to 352 in 2015.
From 1965 to 1973, the crime rate in New York State increased by 45.4%. Violent crime increased by 128%.
- How does New York State’s crime rate compare to that of other states? New York State is now 45th in overall crime, 23rd in violent crime and 49th in property crime. From 1965-1992, New York State was either in first or second place for violent crime. In every year since 2000, New York State’s overall crime rate has placed it among the 20% of states with the lowest crime rate in the nation.
The overall crime rate in New York State is now 31% lower than the national crime rate. New York City’s crime rate is now 26.4% lower than the national crime rate. The nation’s violent crime rate increased at slightly less (3.1%) than the 3.5% level of New York. While homicide rates increased nationally by 10% from 2014-2015, the homicide rate decreased slightly in New York State by .5%.
- How does crime in New York City compare to crime in the rest of New York State? The overall crime rate in New York City is 12% higher than that of the rest of the State, but the violent crime rate is 165% higher in New York City.
There are 15 counties with crime rates that are higher than New York City’s. This is the same number of counties that had crime rates higher than New York City in 2014.
Most of the counties which had crime rates higher than New York City in 2014 similarly had crime rates higher than New York City in 2015. The counties with the highest crime rates in order were (1) Broome, (2) Erie, (3) Niagara, (4) Monroe, (5) Albany, (6) Schenectady, (7) Rensselaer, (8) Montgomery, (9) Chautauqua, (10) Onondaga, (11) Fulton, (12) Oneida, (13) Chemung, (14) Tompkins, and (15) Jefferson. Broome ranked second in the State in its crime rate in 2014, but easily had the State’s highest crime rate in 2015. Schenectady County, which had the highest county crime rate in the years between 2008-2014, moved to 6th place in 2015.
New York County had the highest crime rate in New York City, and the second highest in the State, but Broome County’s crime rate was 14.5% higher.
The counties with the lowest crime rates were, in order, Putnam, Schuyler, Hamilton, Tioga, and Washington.
The Bronx had the highest violent crime rate followed by Kings (Brooklyn), New York, Queens, Erie, and
- What is the crime rate in cities in New York State? What is the violent crime rate for these cities? How do they compare to the crime rate in New York City?
Surveying the cities in New York State with populations over 25,000, most cities in upstate New York have crime rates that are far higher than New York City. The larger cities with low crime rates are the ones in suburban areas, basically downstate. That list also includes North Tonawanda in Erie County. These were (besides North Tonawanda) Glen Cove, Long Beach, Yonkers, New Rochelle, and White Plains.
The cities with the highest crime rates were in order: (1) Niagara Falls, (2) Buffalo, (3) Watertown, (4) Binghamton, (5) Troy, (6) Rochester, (7) Syracuse, (8) Newburgh, (9) Utica, (10) Jamestown, and (11) Albany. Niagara Falls’ crime rate was nearly three times that of New York City’s. The cities with the eighth highest crime rates all had crime rates double that of New York City. The nine largest cities in upstate New York (including assumedly Schenectady based on prior year’s stats) all had crime rates higher than that of New York City. Other upstate cities with a higher crime rate than New York City also included Auburn, Elmira, Poughkeepsie, Middletown, and Saratoga Springs. (Saratoga Springs’ crime rate was less than 4% higher than New York City’s). The only non-suburban city with a lower crime rate than New York City was the city of Rome.
The cities with the highest violent crime rates were in order (1) Newburgh, (2) Niagara Falls, (3) Buffalo, (4) Rochester, (5) Troy, (6) Albany, (7) Syracuse, (8) Poughkeepsie, (9) Jamestown, and (10) Binghamton. Newburgh’s violent crime rate was 150% higher than that of New York City. The crime rates in Niagara Falls and Buffalo were basically 90% higher than that of New York City. Newburgh, Niagara Falls, and Buffalo all had higher violent crime rates than the Bronx, which was the county with the highest violent crime rate. The upstate cities with lower violent crime rates than that of New York City were Elmira, Middletown, North Tonawanda, Rome, Saratoga Springs, Utica, and Watertown.
There is little reason to change the conclusions from the 2016 report. The center of crime in New York State is no longer in New York City. As said previously, the “primary locus of crime in New York State is now in the urban areas of upstate New York.”
 “New York State: Where the Crimes Are,” June 10, 2016. https://governmentreform.wordpress.com/2016/06/10/new-york-state-where-the-crimes-are/.
 Basic sources are from the FBI and the State Division of Criminal Justice Services. See generally https://ucr.fbi.gov/crime-in-the-u.s/2015/crime-in-the-u.s.-2015/offenses-known-to-law-enforcement/offenses-known-to-law-enforcement and http://www.criminaljustice.ny.gov/crimnet/ojsa/countycrimestats.htm. Also see http://www.disastercenter.com/crime/nycrime.htm.
 Part of this increase is attributable to a broader definition of the crime of rape. The more expansive definition led to an increase in rape of 140.6% from 2014-2015.
 There was no data in the reports from the city of Schenectady.
 The city of Albany had the highest overall crime rate in 2014.
 Newburgh also had the highest overall violent crime rate in 2014.