U Visa: Guidance for Local Law Enforcement and Investigative Bodies

by Kendra Sena*


Immigrants, especially women and children, can be particularly vulnerable to serious crimes like human trafficking, domestic violence, sexual assault, and wage theft.[1] Those without lawful status may be reluctant to report crimes to law enforcement or to assist in the investigation or prosecution of crimes for a variety of reasons, including fear of deportation.[2] To support law enforcement in the prosecution of crimes committed against immigrants, and to facilitate the reporting of those crimes, Congress created the U Visa.[3]

A U Visa is a temporary visa for victims of certain crimes who have been helpful in the investigation or prosecution of the crime. The purpose of the U Visa is to “strengthen the ability of law enforcement agencies to detect, investigate, and prosecute” certain serious crimes and to protect victims.[4]

State and local law enforcement and investigative bodies, such as police, sheriffs, protective service agencies, prosecutors, as well as state and local judges, can help a person apply for a U Visa by certifying that the person was a victim of a crime and is, has been, or is willing to be helpful in the investigation or prosecution of a crime. Such certification is necessary but not sufficient to obtain a U Visa; the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), through U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS), makes the final determination whether to issue a U Visa to an applicant.

The U Visa is an important tool for local governments to build trust with immigrant crime victims and communities and to strengthen enforcement efforts against those who target immigrants. This explainer gives an overview of the U Visa and the role of state and local government officials in the U Visa process.

I. What is a U Visa?

A U Visa is a form of relief that the federal government can grant to victims of certain crimes who have been helpful or are likely to be helpful in the detection, investigation, or prosecution of criminal activity. A U Visa allows a person to remain in the U.S. for up to four years and gives them access to certain benefits, including the right to work. The U Visa does not confer permanent immigration status; only after several years, and if certain conditions are met, may the person apply for Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR) status (i.e., a “green card”), which may provide a pathway to citizenship.

II. What role do state and local government officials play?

State and local enforcement and investigative bodies have a limited but critical role in the U Visa process. To apply for a U Visa, a person must submit, among other things, a certification that they have been the victim of a crime and have been helpful in the investigation or prosecution of a crime. A state or local enforcement or investigative body may certify as much by completing a certification form.

The U Visa certification is a required form that the applicant must include in the U Visa application. But the certification alone is not determinative of U Visa eligibility, and does not itself confer any status or benefit on the applicant. Nor does it speak to the character of the applicant, their eligibility for a visa, or express an opinion as to whether a U Visa should be granted. Instead, the certification serves a limited and targeted purpose:  to verify that the person applying for the visa has been a victim and that they have been, are being, or are likely to be helpful in the detection, investigation, prosecution, conviction, or sentencing of criminal activity.[5]  USCIS, the federal agency charged with reviewing visa applications, makes the final decision regarding U Visa eligibility and issuance.

A person cannot apply for a U Visa without a certification from an enforcement or investigative body. Thus, while the role of state and local government in the U Visa process is limited, the role is crucial. The decision whether to sign a certification is that of the certifying body. It is therefore important that local governments establish policies and procedures regarding U Visa certification.

III. Process for certifying a U Visa

To be eligible for a U Visa, an applicant must submit Form I-918, Supplement B, completed by a certifying agency. The form and its instructions are available on the USCIS website at http://www.uscis.gov. The form must be signed by an official from a certifying agency, and verifies that the applicant was the victim of a qualifying crime, and has been helpful or is likely to be helpful in the investigation or prosecution of criminal activity.

Certifying agencies include state and local bodies responsible for the investigation, prosecution, conviction, or sentencing of the criminal activity, and include (but are not limited to):

  • Federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies;
  • Federal, state, and local prosecutors’ offices;
  • Federal, state, and local judges;
  • Federal, state, and local family protective services;
  • Federal and state Departments of Labor;
  • Other investigative agencies.[6]

The official providing the certification must be:

  • The head of the certifying agency;
  • An official in a supervisory role who has been specifically designated[7] by the head of the certifying agency to issue U Visa certifications on behalf of that agency; or
  • A federal, state, or local judge.[8]

Qualifying crime or qualifying criminal activity includes one or more of the following in violation of Federal, State or local criminal law of the United States:

Abduction Abusive sexual contact
Blackmail Domestic violence
Extortion False imprisonment
Felonious assault Female genital mutilation
Fraud in foreign labor contracting Hostage-taking
Incest Involuntary servitude
Kidnapping Manslaughter
Murder Obstruction of justice
Peonage Perjury
Prostitution Rape
Sexual assault Sexual exploitation
Slave trade Stalking
Torture Trafficking
Unlawful criminal restraint Witness tampering

Qualifying crimes also include “any similar activity,” meaning criminal offenses in which the nature and elements of the offenses are substantially similar to the statutorily enumerated list of criminal activities. Also included is an attempt, conspiracy, or solicitation to commit any of the above and other related crimes.[9]

Helpfulness standard. Helpfulness means the victim possesses information that was, is, or is likely to assist law enforcement or an investigative body in the investigation or prosecution of a crime of which they are the victim.

A current investigation, the filing of charges, a prosecution or conviction are not required in order for a victim of a crime to have been “helpful.” Reporting a crime, even where arrest or prosecution is impossible—when the perpetrator has fled, for example—is still helpful.

In the case of a victim of a crime who is under the age of 16 when the crime first occurs, a parent, guardian or “next friend” of the child may provide the required assistance.[10]  A “next friend” is a person who appears in a lawsuit to act for the benefit of an immigrant who is a child, or is incapacitated or incompetent, or who has suffered substantial physical or mental abuse as a result of being a victim of qualifying criminal activity. [11]  The next friend is not a party to the legal proceeding and is not appointed as a guardian.[12]

USCIS review. In addition to the certification form, a person seeking a U Visa must submit an application form (I-918, “Petition for U Nonimmigrant Status”) and considerable supporting materials. The applicant must show that they have suffered substantial physical or mental abuse as a result of having been a victim of a qualifying crime, and that they are admissible to the United States. Note that the certifying agency does not have to certify that the victim suffered substantial abuse, nor that they are admissible; the certification form speaks only to the fact that the applicant has been a victim of a qualifying crime and that they are willing to be helpful in the investigation or prosecution of the crime.

As part of its review of the U Visa application, USCIS conducts a thorough background investigation, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) fingerprint and name checks, and a review of the applicant’s criminal history, immigration history, and other background information.[13] USCIS may request additional information from the applicant or certifying agency if questions arise.[14]

The number of U Visas that can be awarded in any year is limited by statute to 10,000.[15]  Once that cap is reached, applicants are put on a waiting list.[16] An analysis of recent adjudications puts the current wait time at over two years for review and placement on the waiting list.[17]


The U Visa is an important tool for local governments to strengthen enforcement efforts against criminals who target immigrants. A strong policy favoring U Visa certifications in appropriate cases communicates to immigrant communities a commitment to protecting victims of crime. Police departments, sheriffs’ departments, prosecutors, protective service agencies, and state and local judges play a vital role in building trust with immigrant communities in order to increase public safety and the effectiveness of the justice system.

Best Practices

  1. Establish a formal policy regarding U Visas for your local government, enforcement body, court, or agency. Train first responders, officers, and other personnel on U Visa eligibility and the process for certifying a U Visa application.
  2. Conduct outreach to immigrant communities and their advocates explaining the U Visa and the agency’s role in certifying U Visa applications.
  3. Ensure fairness by implementing a review process for U Visa certification requests.


The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has issued a Resource Guide for Federal, State, Local, Tribal, and Territorial Law Enforcement, that includes a helpful FAQ, available at: https://www.dhs.gov/publication/u-visa-law-enforcement-certification-resource-guide

For an excellent guide for local law enforcement and prosecutors, including a model policy and sample outreach materials, see: http://niwaplibrary.wcl.american.edu/pubs/uvisatoolkit-police-proscutors/

A useful step-by-step guide for family court judges and other judges in NY can be found at: http://immigrants.moderncourts.org/wp-content/uploads/sites/2/2017/04/U-visaCertificationGuidance.pdf

For a compelling case study of one police department’s experience with U Visas, see: http://www.policeforum.org/assets/docs/Subject_to_Debate/Debate2017/debate_2017_junaug.pdf

For more information about state and local governments’ role in immigration law, visit our website: albanylaw.edu/glc/immigration



* Kendra Sena is the Senior Staff Attorney at the Government Law Center at Albany Law School.

[1] The Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act of 2000, Pub. L. No. 106-386 § 1513, 114 Stat. 1533 (2000) (codified as amended in various sections of the U.S.C.) [hereinafter VTVPA].

[2] Dep’t of Homeland Sec., U and T Visa Law Enforcement Resource Guide, (last updated Jan. 8, 2016), https://www.dhs.gov/sites/default/files/publications/U-and-T-Visa-Law-Enforcement-Resource%20Guide_1.4.16.pdf [hereinafter DHS Resource Guide].

[3] See VTVPA at 1533-34.

[4] VTVPA at 1533 (“The purpose of this section is to create a new nonimmigrant visa classification that will strengthen the ability of law enforcement agencies to detect, investigate, and prosecute cases of domestic violence, sexual assault, trafficking of aliens, and other crimes … committed against aliens, while offering protection to victims of such offenses in keeping with the humanitarian interests of the United States.”).

[5] 8 U.S.C. 1184(a)(15)(U).

[6] 8 C.F.R. 214.14(a)(2).

[7] In the case of a designated official, USCIS recommends including a letter signed by the agency head that reflects that person with a particular rank or title within the agency has been designated a signing official. See DHS Resource Guide.

[8] 8 C.F.R. §  214.14 (a)(3)(i-ii).

[9] 8 U.S.C. (a)(15)(U)(iii).

[10] 8 C.F.R. § 214.14(b)(2).

[11] 8 C.F.R. § 214.14(a)(7).

[12] Id.

[13] DHS Resource Guide.

[14] Id.

[15] 8 U.S.C. § 1184(p)(2). Certain immediate family members of U Visa recipients may also be eligible for a derivative U Visa. See 8 U.S.C. § 1101(a)(15)(U)(ii).

[16] 8 C.F.R. 214.14(d)(2).

[17] Sarah Bronstein, Changes to U Visa processing in Fiscal Year 2017, Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc. (CLINIC),  https://cliniclegal.org/resources/immigration-and-nationality-act-limited-number-u-visas-fiscal-year-2017 .


Renaming the Bridges of New York

By Bennett Liebman
Government Lawyer in Residence
Government Law Center
Albany Law School

New York State government has always had an obsession with the renaming of its major bridges and tunnels, especially naming them after deceased elected officials. We now have the Robert F. Kennedy Bridge (formerly the Triborough Bridge), the Ed Koch Queensboro Bridge, the Hugh L. Carey Tunnel (formerly the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel), and the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Mid-Hudson Bridge.

Currently we have the saga of the Tappan Zee Bridge which is the bridge on the New York Thruway (the Governor Thomas E. Dewey Thruway) crossing the Hudson River between Tarrytown in Westchester County and Nyack in Rockland County.  The bridge opened in the mid 1950’s as the Tappan Zee Bridge. Governor Mario Cuomo in 1993 proposed a program bill to rename the bridge as the Governor Malcolm Wilson Tappan Zee Bridge, and the state legislature approved the program bill later that year (Ch. 530; L. 1993). Malcolm Wilson was a long time elected official from Westchester County, who served as Nelson Rockefeller’s Lieutenant Governor for more than three terms and for a year as New York’s fiftieth governor. In 1993, the legislature in the bridge-renaming legislation found “that a lasting tribute should be made to honor Governor Wilson’s untiring dedication and outstanding achievements on behalf of the state.”  Governor Mario Cuomo, in approving the legislation, noted that it had been “introduced at my request” and that the renaming “is a fitting tribute to the high standard of public service exemplified by Governor Wilson throughout his 36 consecutive years in public office.” Nonetheless, the state legislature at the close of the 2017 session renamed the Wilson Bridge as the Governor Mario M. Cuomo Bridge, based on the suggestion of Governor Andrew Cuomo.

But nothing in New York compares to the nine-decade saga involving the naming of the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge.  The Verrazano-Narrows Bridge which was completed in 1965 connects Brooklyn with Staten Island at the Narrows, which is the gateway from the Atlantic Ocean to New York harbor. When constructed, the bridge was the largest suspension bridge in the world.

Starting in the 1920’s, there was regular talk about building a bridge at the Narrows.  Throughout that time, the bridge was known as the Narrows Bridge. The talk finally became serious in 1954 as the Port Authority, the Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority, and New York City decided to move forward on the Narrows Bridge. In 1995, state legislation was passed authorizing construction of the $220 million “Narrows Bridge.” Robert Moses, who was the czar of metropolitan New York construction at the Triborough Authority, called it “the bridge of my dreams.”

Yet this was just the beginning of the legislative fights involving the bridge. The plan for the bridge involved the condemnation of numerous homes in Bay Ridge in Brooklyn. The Bay Ridge leaders—and Mario Cuomo was one of their attorneys—were able to pass bills in three consecutive years to change the route of the bridge to avoid the condemnations. The bills were vetoed by Governor Harriman in 1957 and 1958 and by Governor Rockefeller in 1959. Eventually eight hundred homes were condemned, and seven thousand people were forced to relocate.

Meanwhile, the Italian Historical Association of America, based in Brooklyn under the active leadership of its founder John LaCorte, began to argue that the Narrows Bridge should rightfully be named for the Florentine explorer Giovanni da Verrazano, who in 1524 was arguably the first white man to explore New York Harbor. Governor Harriman in 1958 (an election year) agreed and proposed the Verrazano Bridge.

In 1959, a reluctant Robert Moses, at the Triborough Authority, agreed to the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge name change. The possible use of the Verrazano name, however, prompted a negative reaction from Staten Island residents, and the Staten Island Chamber of Commerce proposed the “Staten Island Bridge.”  The Staten Islanders questioned the role of Verrazano, and wondered why there was no bridge named specifically for Staten Island.  (After all, there were the Brooklyn, Manhattan, Bronx Whitestone, and Queensboro Bridges.) At the 1959 groundbreaking for the bridge, the Staten Islanders hired a plane carrying the banner, “Name It The Staten Island Bridge” to fly over the ceremonies.

Governor Rockefeller agreed with the Verrazano name and not the Staten Island contingent. The legislature in 1960 formally amended the law to state that the bridge referred to as the Narrows shall be the “Verrazano-Narrows Bridge.” This statutory enactment served to defeat the Staten Islanders and made certain that Robert Moses could not go back on his word and rename it the Narrows Bridge.

This did not end the bridge-naming controversy. People began to question the spelling of Verrazano’s last name. Were there two “z’s” or one “z” in the explorer’s name? The statue of the explorer in Battery Park, a city ferry boat, and the Triborough Authority claimed that the historical evidence supported the two “z” spelling.  The Triborough Authority even erected many two “z” road signs in anticipation of the bridge’s construction.  LaCorte fired back at the Triborough Authority by saying that he had viewed the historical documents in Italy which showed the one “z” spelling to be the proper spelling.  Most importantly, LaCorte had the trump card. The state legislature had spelled the bridge with one “z,” and the one “z” spelling prevailed.

This did not completely stop the Staten Islanders. After the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in 1963, the Staten Island Chamber of Commerce called upon the legislature to name the bridge the “John F. Kennedy Memorial Bridge.” Legislation was introduced to change the name of the bridge in honor of President Kennedy, but it went nowhere. For the first 50 years after it opened, we had the Verrazano (one ”z”) Bridge.

Then came 2016.  A Brooklyn College student named Robert Nash started a petition to rename the bridge with the two “z” spelling.  The petition received significant publicity. Both houses in the New York State legislature introduced legislation to rename the bridge with the two ”z” spelling. The State Senate in 2017 passed the bill, but the Assembly did not act on it.

The one constant here is that these bridge renaming issues will always be with us in New York.  The supply of bridges that can be renamed and the supply of public figures for whom they can be named for is simply inexhaustible.

What Should We Name for Mario Cuomo?

By Bennett Liebman
Government Lawyer in Residence
Government Law Center
Albany Law School

Putting aside the controversy over the renaming of the Governor Malcolm Wilson Tappan Zee Bridge into the Governor Mario M. Cuomo Bridge, what should be named for Mario Cuomo? Let’s face it, several of the renamings of highways, bridges, and other structures in the last decade have made little sense.

Why rename the Tappan Zee Bridge after Mario Cuomo when Mario Cuomo had taken the initiative to name the bridge after Malcolm Wilson? Can anyone envision the subway-centric Ed Koch driving a car over the former Queensboro Bridge that is now the Ed Koch Queensboro Bridge? How can Robert Kennedy—one of the first high-profile campaigners against water and air pollution—have the Triborough Bridge (a bridge that author Robert Caro termed a “traffic machine”) named for him?

The point should be that public figures should have some significant nexus to the monument, building, park, or road which bears their name.[1] That nexus could come from geography, the public works of the public figure, and the interests and avocations of the public figure.

Sometimes, the combination of these factors produces its own synergy. Fiorello La Guardia, while a congressman, served as an Air Force flyer in World War I. As New York City mayor, he helped build and improve the airport that was thoughtfully named for him after his death.

Nelson Rockefeller had the idea to build the Empire State Plaza. The plaza was largely built during his administration. His art collection is a major part of the plaza. He dominated everything in Albany for nearly fifteen years. It makes sense to call the plaza the Governor Nelson A. Rockefeller Empire State Plaza.

So where does that leave Mario Cuomo? On geography, the answer should be Queens County, where he lived from his birth until 1994. You could conceivably add Albany, where he lived during his time as governor, and was noted for rarely spending an evening away from the Governor’s Mansion. Otherwise, you might use Brooklyn, where he went to high school, college, law school, and where his law firm was located, or Nassau County, where he frequently played baseball or softball.

On the public works field, the Carey-Cuomo years were not known for the building of infrastructure.  The state was still recovering from the years of capital construction and borrowing during the Rockefeller administration. You could point to Battery Park City (opened for residential housing in 1983)[2] or Riverbank State Park, which was the first state park in Manhattan and which opened in 1993 while Cuomo was governor.

On the avocation side, Cuomo was known for spending almost all his time working. He was a stay-at- home working governor. His avocations really were baseball and basketball. He had been a minor league baseball player, and often had his driver stop his car to watch kids play baseball. He also was an avid basketball player who played well into his seventies. Nobody should think of naming a golf course after him, and it would be hard to envision Mario Cuomo saying, “Tennis, anyone?”

Trying to harmonize these factors, if you looked at Queens County locations, you might consider the following possibilities: 1. Co-naming the New York Mets stadium/grounds/park with Citi Field. The situation could be akin to the stadium in San Diego, where you have a combination of names for a sporting venue. There you have Jack Murphy Field inside the venue known as Qualcomm Stadium. Name it Citi Field at the Cuomo Park or Citi Field at the Cuomo Grounds.[3] 2. Add the Cuomo name to the Cross Bay Bridge, which connects eastern Queens across Jamaica Bay to the Rockaways. Many of the other significant bridges in the city already are named for individuals or have iconic status like the Brooklyn Bridge and the Williamsburg Bridge. The other bridge to the Rockaways is the Marine Parkway–Gil Hodges Memorial Bridge, which connects Brooklyn to the Rockaways. An intra-Queens bridge which would keep the original name on the bridge would almost seem ideal for Mario Cuomo.[4] If you had to name another bridge for Mario Cuomo, wouldn’t it make more sense to append his name to the other Queens bridges across Long Island Sound, the Throgs Neck Bridge or the Whitestone Bridge? 3. Rename Mario Cuomo’s junior high school, which was Shimer Junior High and is now the site of the Queens Transition Center. 4. The city’s Cunningham Park is located very close to the Cuomo house in Holliswood. It might be possible to name the park after Cuomo, or name at least one of the ballfields for him.[5] 5. Rename Utopia Parkway for Cuomo. This street, which runs through much of Queens, passes right next to Cuomo’s alma mater (St. John’s).[6] The term ‟Utopia” is derived from the book of the same name by St. Thomas More. More, a lawyer-philosopher-statesman, was clearly one of Cuomo’s idols, and a print of a painting of More hung in Cuomo’s office. If you had to name another road for Cuomo, you could also consider the Grand Central Parkway which runs only in Queens and runs close to both his home in Holliswood and St. John’s. You could have the Mario Cuomo-Grand Central Parkway.

If Brooklyn was a possibility, the logical name would be to rename the building where the Second Department, Appellate Division was located after Cuomo. The courthouse at 45 Monroe Place was located four blocks from Cuomo’s law office on Court Street. Given Cuomo’s dedication to the law, this might serve as an appropriate naming opportunity.

If you are looking at infrastructure built during Cuomo’s years as governor, the clear example would be Riverbank State Park. It was conceived and opened during his administration and is clearly one of the most popular non-beach parks in the State system.

Looking at avocations which translate into baseball or basketball, the most logical move would be to name the gym at the Department of Correctional Services Training Academy in Albany after Cuomo. This was the regular site of most of Cuomo’s basketball games.

The other possibility besides the Training Academy would be to name a baseball field at Albany’s Lincoln Park after Cuomo. The Governor’s Mansion is nearly adjacent to the park, and Cuomo would play softball there and jog through the park. While it is always sacrilegious to take any name away from Lincoln, a Mario Cuomo baseball field at Lincoln Park would be more than appropriate. The four 20-story agency buildings which are part of the Governor Nelson A. Rockefeller Empire State Plaza still go by the uninspired names of Agency Buildings 1, 2, 3, and 4. Why not name these buildings after longtime governors such as Mario Cuomo and George Pataki?[7]

There are a host of appropriate naming opportunities for Mario Cuomo. Let’s give him the recognition he merits by basing the naming on his life experiences, his work, his history, and his interests.


[1] An exception could be found for a public figure of international prominence. Thus, most any public site could be reasonably named for presidents Eisenhower, Kennedy, and Reagan.

[2] The governing body for Battery Park City is now the Hugh L. Carey Battery Park City Authority.

[3] It should be noted that Cuomo grew up as a Yankees fan.

[4] One issue here is that the Cross Bay Bridge was renamed as the Cross Bay Veterans Memorial Bridge.

[5] Cunningham Park was named for W. Arthur Cunningham, who was elected the New York City Comptroller in 1934 but died of a heart attack in the spring of 1935. This would not be the first time that a facility was renamed after the individual for whom the facility was named faded from public consciousness. Kennedy Airport was officially named for Major General Alexander E. Anderson (even thought it was universally called Idlewild Airport) before the name was changed after the 1963 assassination. Eisenhower Park in Nassau County had initially been named Salisbury Park in honor of the English Earl of Salisbury.

[6] When Cuomo attended St. John’s, the school was in Brooklyn, but he did teach law there at its present location.

[7] Perhaps, it would make sense to name these buildings after the most recent governors in New York who served more than eight years  as governor. These would be Lehman, Dewey, Cuomo and Pataki. (Given that the entire plaza is named for him, it would make little sense to name an individual building for Governor Rockefeller) There already is a state office building named for Alfred E. Smith who served four two-year terms as governor.

Crime in New York State in 2015

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.[1]  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.[2]

  1. 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%.[3] There was an increase in violent crime of 3.5% but a decrease of 6.6% in non-violent property crime.
  1. 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%.

  1. 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%.

  1. 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

  1. 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,[4] 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.[5] 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,[6] (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.”

[1] “New York State: Where the Crimes Are,” June 10, 2016. https://governmentreform.wordpress.com/2016/06/10/new-york-state-where-the-crimes-are/.

[2] 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.

[3] 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.

[4] There was no data in the reports from the city of Schenectady.

[5] The city of Albany had the highest overall crime rate in 2014.

[6] Newburgh also had the highest overall violent crime rate in 2014.