Crime In New York City: linking to income and public housing

According to the latest NYPD statistics, New York City saw a rise in overall crime last month compared to the same time in 2019, especially in certain violent crimes including gun incidents. Shooting incidents across the city has increased 121% October this year compared to the same month last year. Burglaries and auto thefts were also up last month compared to a year earlier. During the COVID-19 outbreak, citizens and polices have encountered unprecedented challenges confronting the crimes.

“From the COVID-19 outbreak through upticks in violent crime to the continuing work of facilitating peaceful protests throughout the city, the 2020 calendar year has confronted our officers and the city’s residents with unprecedented challenges,” the NYPD said in a statement. “Through it all, our mutual resiliency has come through.”


While this year of 2020 has presented many inconvenience and unknown factors that may happen in the city, public safety still needs to be viewed as an important element in protecting citizens’ lives and facilitating city’s operation. In a sense of knowing more of crime cases happened this year, I extracted past three months’ data (July to September) from NYPD Complaint Data Current Year-to-Date to have an overview of where most of crimes happened.

Sources: NYPD Complaint Data Current (Year to Date), Neighborhood Tabulation Areas, NYC Open Data

According to the NYPD datasets, it classifies all the crimes to three levels in terms of the felony, misdemeanor and violations with decreasing severity. I mapped the number of crimes of each level by neighborhood tabulation areas. I made a spatial join by adding corresponding NTA to each crime complaint and generated a dataset by grouping by the crime level and NTA using R. The maps above use the new dataset and break the number of crimes to the same ranges. Comparing all three crime levels, the result shows that the city has the highest number of misdemeanors, followed by the felony and violations. The neighborhood tabulation area with highest number of crimes of all three levels is East New York in Brooklyn. I also found that Clinton Hill and Crown Heights North in Brooklyn and Midtown in Manhattan tend to have higher number of crimes among all neighborhoods. In addition, the maps imply that there is no big difference in neighborhoods of different crime levels, which means that areas with higher number of felonies tend to have higher violations and misdemeanors.

Crime and Median Household Income

With this overview of crimes location in mind, I was wondering what kind of factors would influence the likelihood of higher occurrence of crimes in certain areas. In many cities, poverty often associated with the high levels of crime. Numerous studies show that people living in households in the US that have an income level below the Federal poverty threshold have more than double the rates of violent victimization compared to individuals in high-income households. Urban poverty increased the risk of violence as well as the probability of the crime event. To prove this hypothesis, my research will examine the relationship between income and crimes, with emphasis on the low-income public housing.

Sources: Median Household Income, NYPD Complaint Data Current (Year to Date), Neighborhood Tabulation Areas, NYC Open Data
Sources: Median Household Income, NYPD Complaint Data Current (Year to Date), Neighborhood Tabulation Areas, Census Demographics at NTA level, NYC Open Data

The maps show the crimes happened in past three months in relation to the median household income data in 2017 inflation adjusted dollars by census tracts. As neighborhood tabulation areas are aggregated census tracts, the number of crimes and crime rates are mapped in NTA for better visualization of the map compared to smaller census tracts. According to the left map, the number of crimes are higher in Midtown, Lower Manhattan, and downtown Brooklyn where the median household income is relatively high as well as in South Bronx and Eastern Brooklyn where the median household income is low. Areas with households of moderate-high median income have the lowest number of crimes.

When considering the neighborhood safety, population is often taken into account. The crime rate was calculated from the population of NTA based on the 2010 census. In terms of the crime rate per 100,000 population as shown in the map at the right, the result is similar to the number of crime cases, which shows that lower income areas with median household incomes of less than $44,800 and some of the high income areas have much higher crime rate compared to the middle range. The results partially proves the correlation between low-income areas and the crimes, with some exception of high income areas, which may due to other social-economic factors such as gentrification and income inequality.

Crime and Public Housing

Then, the question leads to the effects of housing development and neighborhood characteristics on crime. Low-income public housing, in this case, is centered in this discussion. Public housing in New York City is operated by NYCHA (New York City Housing Authority), which is responsible for the health and safety of over half a million New Yorkers in 2017. NYCHA accounts fro 8.1% of the city’s total housing units with 328 developments/projects of low-moderate income housing (mean household income is $23,672). According to Manhattan Institute, “under Mayor de Blasio, crime in NYCHA developments — absolutely and as a share of the city total — has remained largely unchanged.” People in NYCHA properties are murdered, raped and assaulted at twice or more the rate of the rest of the city.

When its data on housing project crime was last updated Oct. 18, the NYPD counted 59 homicides in NYCHA property, up 41% from the same period of 2019

The murder rate is far worse in NYCHA projects than elsewhere. As of Oct. 18, the projects have seen 15.5 homicides per 100,000 people, compared to 4 per 100,000 elsewhere in the city.

Police counted 257 shooting incidents in NYCHA projects this year as of Oct. 18, also a 92% increase over 2019. Sixty-seven shootings were reported per 100,000 NYCHA residents, compared to 12 per 100,000 in the rest of the city.

Sources: NYPD Complaint Data Current (Year to Date), Neighborhood Tabulation Areas, NYCHA Developments

The map above shows the locations of all NYCHA developments in New York City in relation to the number of crime cases by neighborhood tabulation areas. We could easily find out that most NYCHA developments are clustered in areas with higher number of crimes (800 to over 1,500 cases). To have a more accurate number of the crimes happened near NYCHA developments, I made a buffer of 1,000 feet near the housing projects and then selected and counted the number of crimes cases. The map below presents the result that 38,981 out of 104,586 crimes cases occur near NYCHA housing, which is almost 40% of the total crimes in past three months. It acknowledges the fact that public housing faces the less safe conditions compared to other neighborhoods in terms of the number of crimes. Rather than a coincidence, it would be largely believed that low-income public housing has relatively poor living conditions such as poor lighting and CCTV locations which don’t prove conducive to a safe, healthy environment.

Sources: NYPD Complaint Data Current (Year to Date), NYCHA Developments

Among all the NYCHA developments, certain neighborhoods have higher number of crimes compared to others. I mapped the crimes near NYCHA housing projects by counting the number of the cases in the buffer region of 1,000 feet around each housing, and classified in to 5 ranges. The black bubbles on the map below represent the developments with crime cases of more than 403. Top five neighborhoods with highest number of cases are Clinton, Washington, Patterson, Saint Nicholas and Johnson, mainly located in Uptown Manhattan and Bronx.

Sources: NYPD Complaint Data Current (Year to Date), NYCHA Developments

What’s Next?

To conclude, crimes are more or less connected to the characteristics of neighborhoods in terms of income level. Low-Moderate public housing indeed giving people an affordable, decent place to live, but people could not neglect the actual unsafe and unhealthy living conditions that still existed in most housing developments. With higher number of crimes happened near these neighborhoods, we should relate the factors inducing crimes to the neighborhood conditions in order to mitigate the probability of more violent crimes. Aside from the different median household income, we could also look into the races, ages, gentrification in neighborhoods and public housing to address more racial, and socio-economic issues surrounding it. Crimes could be broken down to more specific types for a more detailed analysis of the likelihood of certain crimes happened in the areas and behind reasons that cause the crimes.

*rstudio project that include the code for processing the data:




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