NEW YORK — Gun violence involving children and teens has torn apart more New York City families so far this year than in 2020 and 2019 — an alarming and heartbreaking trend documented on a national scale as well.
According to NYPD data, the number of youth shooting victims has nearly doubled this year compared to the same time period just two years ago.
Between Jan. 1 and Sept. 26, there were 89 shooting victims ages 17 and younger — up from 84 in 2020 and 45 in 2019, per the NYPD.
The data becomes even more horrific when comparing the number of fatalities among young shooting victims.
Sixteen children or teens were shot and killed between Jan 1. and Sept. 26, an increase of over 136% compared to the same time period in 2019, when three young lives were claimed. In 2020, seven shooting victims ages 17 or younger died during that time frame.
The data also doesn’t account for shootings that happened after Sept. 26, including the case of a 13-year-old boy who shot another 13-year-old boy in the knee at a Bronx basketball court on Oct. 7, according to police.
Officers arrested the teen suspect, who was not identified because of his age, on Tuesday. He was charged with attempted murder, assault and harassment, according to the NYPD.
Just one day before that shooting, a 13-year-old boy was shot in the head and a 16-year-old boy was shot in the back when gunfire erupted inside a Harlem restaurant, police said. Both victims survived, however, no arrests have been made in the case, according to investigators.
And on Sunday night, a man stormed into a Queens home and opened fire, shooting a 14-year-old boy twice in the back, police said. The teen’s gunshot wounds were not life threatening, according to police, and no arrests have been made.
NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea addressed the rise in shootings involving city youth on Tuesday, telling PIX11 Morning News anchor Dan Mannarino the police department is trying to reach at-risk teens before they turn to guns.
“It’s terrible all the way around,” he said. “We have to do better, I think as a society, certainly.”
New York City, however, is not alone in its struggle to quell the stark increase in gun violence over the past two years.
National Gun Violence Archive data shows shootings this year have claimed 1,179 young lives and left 3,292 youths injured. Overall, youth homicides rose sharply from 2019 to 2020, and the data shows this year is shaping up to be even worse.
In New York City, 32 youths ages 17 or younger were the victims of a homicide between Jan 1. and Sept. 26, compared with 16 in 2020 and 19 in 2019, according to NYPD data.
Experts say idleness caused by the COVID-19 pandemic shares the blame with easy access to guns and disputes that too often end with gunfire.
Rev. Starsky Wilson, president and CEO of the Children’s Defense Fund, said a spike in gun sales during the pandemic also contributed.
“There are more guns available on the street and there are folks with less opportunity to engage in productive activity,” Wilson recently told The Associated Press. “A combination of those two is really challenging.”
Additionally, Black children and teenagers were four times more likely than whites to be fatally shot, according to a report by the Children’s Defense Fund, which found that child and teen shooting deaths reached a 19-year high in 2017 and have since remained elevated.
Gun violence advocates and elected officials in New York City and across the country, including President Joe Biden, have put forth plans on how to combat the rise in shootings.
In New York City, Mayor Bill de Blasio detailed a plan in the spring that included an increased police presence in high-crime neighborhoods, gun buyback events and various programs to engage high-risk communities.
However, when it comes to the young families devastated by gun violence so far this year, the actualization of that plan appears to have come up short.
This story comprises reporting from The Associated Press.