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NYC Criminal Justice System: COVID-19 Impact

The System at a Glance

• Crime rates reached record lows in 2019—14% lower than in 2013 and 78% lower than in 1993. In the first few months of 2020, prior to the COVID-19 emergency, crime had begun to rise from those historic lows, driven primarily by property crime and robberies.

• Since the Governor and the Mayor started putting in place a number of public health measures designed to reduce the spread of COVID-19, crime rates have decreased below their rate at this point last year.


Data sources for crime charts: NYPD CompStat 2.0 and Criminal Justice Bureau Report

• Since the COVID-19 emergency, there have been decreases in major crimes like felony assaults, robberies, grand larcenies, and rapes, but also a rise in murders, burglaries and auto thefts. 

• With a lower crime rate during COVID-19, the overall rate in 2020 is down slightly compared to the same point last year.


• Arrest rates reached historic lows in 2019—45% lower than in 2013 and 25% lower than in 1993. In the first few months of 2020, prior to the COVID-19 emergency, arrests decreased overall by 16%. This overall decrease was driven by decreases in misdemeanor arrests even as there was a rise in arrests for major crimes.

• Overall arrest rates have remained significantly below their rate over the same time period last year.


Data sources for arrests charts:  NYPD CompStat 2.0 and Criminal Justice Bureau Report

• The downward arrest rate trend has continued since the COVID-19 emergency started.

• The New York City police department had already stopped, summonsed, and arrested fewer people, particularly for low-level offenses, since the start of the Administration in 2014. This drove a nearly 50% drop in overall arrests through the end of 2019.

• The decline in arrests following COVID-19 resulted in an overall lower arrest rate than the comparable period last year.  Since the COVID-19 emergency, there have been fewer arrests for major crimes compared to the same time period in 2019.


• Just as crimes reported and arrests made have fallen over the past year, the number of people appearing before judges to have the terms of their release set—arraignments—has also fallen significantly.


Data sources for arraignment charts: New York City Criminal Justice Agency

• Since New York has been put on PAUSE due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the courts have transitioned to a new remote videoconferencing system and limited hearings to emergency and essential matters. Matters that require the defendant to be there in person have been postponed. Trials have been delayed, grand juries put on hold, and sentencings postponed.

• The COVID-19 emergency has accelerated the decline in the number of arraignments.


 As the volume of crimes reported and arrests made have fallen since the start of the Administration in 2014, the number of people arraigned before judges also fell significantly through 2019. This trend has continued in 2020.


• For the past few years, New York City has had the lowest jail incarceration rate and the lowest crime rate of all large cities in the nation. In the face of the current public health emergency, the number of New Yorkers held in NYC jails has plummeted, shrinking by nearly 30% over the past two months—a steeper population decline than in all of last year. The jail population is at a number not seen since 1946.


Data sources for jail charts: Department of Correction COVID-19 UpdatesNYC Open Data: Daily Jail Population

• Since the Governor and the Mayor started putting in place a number of public health measures designed to reduce the spread of COVID-19, fewer people have been entering jail and more people have been leaving, leading to a still-lower jail population.

• People enter and exit custody each day for various reasons. Prior to the COVID-19 emergency, most people left because they paid bail, their sentence expired, or their case was dismissed. Since the outbreak began, different decision makers have used extraordinary powers to release people after balancing legitimate public safety concerns with pressing public health needs. These have included judges issuing writs, the State parole agency lifting parole warrants, district attorneys consenting to release, and the City exercising its discretion with respect to people serving city sentences.

Backdrop for Emergency Operations in New York City
New York Declares a State of Emergency

• On Saturday, March 7, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo officially declared a disaster emergency in the State of New York.

• On Thursday, March 12, Mayor Bill de Blasio declared a local state of emergency in New York City.

• The state of emergency declarations allowed the city and state governments to respond rapidly with an array of measures to address the pandemic, such as ordering New Yorkers to stay at home and observe social distancing, closing offices, schools, restaurants, gyms, and playgrounds, as further detailed below.

• The Mayor’s state of emergency is currently extended through June 9 and the Governor’s state of emergency is currently extended through June 6.


New Yorkers Ordered to Stay Home

• Restrictions on large gatherings began on March 12:

– At first, the orders prohibited no more than 500 people at no greater than 50% occupancy or seating capacity. A few days later the threshold was lowered to 50 people. This applied to gatherings for purposes such as civic, social or religious functions, recreation, food or drink consumption, or similar group activities.

By March 23: All non-essential gatherings were prohibited, no matter the size.

• Staying at home:

March 16: The Governor and Mayor ordered non-essential businesses to close. Bars and restaurants could be take-out only.

March 18: The Governor closed schools across the state.

March 19: Public places like amusement parks, carnivals, bowling alleys (but not public parks and open recreation areas) were ordered closed.

March 21: Personal care services, such as hair and nail salons, and gyms were  required to close.

April 1: New York City playgrounds were closed.

April 7: All closures were extended until at least April 29. Anyone participating in public gatherings or not observing social distancing restrictions could be fined $1,000.

 April 9: Public hearings scheduled for April or May were postponed to June, unless they could be held remotely through telephone or videoconference services.

– April 11: City schools ordered to remain closed through the remainder of the 2019/2020 school year.

April 15: The Governor required that all essential workers wear face coverings, to be provided by their employers.

April 17: The Governor ordered everyone to wear face coverings whenever they are in a public place and unable to maintain social distance.

• Working from home:

– March 16: Offices started implementing the Governor’s executive order and put telework policies in place for the non-essential workforce. This meant that as many employees as possible could work from home while ensuring the continuity of agency business operations.

– March 18: As community spread of the virus increased, limits grew on employees permitted in the workplace. All businesses and not-for-profits, with the exception of essential service providers, such as those in healthcare and food suppliers, were ordered to reduce in-person workforce by 50%.

March 20: The Governor announced the “New York State on PAUSE” executive order, a 10-point policy to assure uniform safety for everyone. All non-essential employees had to work from homestarting no later than Sunday night, March 22. NY State currently remains on PAUSE through May 15. The Mayor instituted the same policy on a citywide level. 

April 16: The Governor extended all closures and the related enforcement mechanisms until at least May 15.

• Re-opening:

– May 14: The Governor extended the stay-at-home order for New York State until May 28 unless regions meet certain conditions. As of May 27, every region excluding New York City began Phase 1 of the state’s regional phased reopening plan.  For details and information about the different phases of this process please visit

– June 6:  The Governor issued an executive order to start preparing for reopening in New York. This allowed restaurants and bars to open for outdoor dining, and permitted houses of worship to hold non-essential gatherings at no greater than 25% occupancy. Mandatory social distancing measures and other precautions must still be in place.

 – June 8:  All regions of New York State are now in Phase 1 or Phase 2 of the state’s regional phased reopening plan. New York City, Long Island, and the Mid-Hudson Valley region began Phase 1 and the Capital Region, Western New York, Central New York, Finger Lakes, Mohawk Valley, North Country, and Southern Tier began Phase 2. For details and information about the different phases of this process please visit

–June 26: All regions of New York State are now in one of the four phases of the state’s regional phased reopening plan. New York City entered Phase 2 on June 22. The Capital Region, Long Island, Western New York, and the Mid-Hudson Valley are in Phase 3. Central New York, Finger Lakes, Mohawk Valley, North Country, and Southern Tier are in Phase 4. For details and information about the different phases of this process please visit

The Criminal Justice System Changes

• Criminal justice system:

– March 12 and March 20: The Governor suspended many criminal procedure rules during the crisis to reduce criminal proceedings to a minimum. This included requirements that the defendant be physically present in the court and prosecutors’ deadlines for grand juries and trials.

– March 15: The Courts likewise announced changes to reduce proceedings to a minimum while still fulfilling basic constitutionally mandated criminal justice requirements. 

– By March 25: The Courts transitioned to videoconferencing and only for the most essential matters. Within a day of arrest, a defendant can appear at arraignment via video, with judge, prosecutor, and defender all participating remotely.

– Since March 25: The Courts have also maintained limited capacity to hear, via video, emergency applications, such as for release of a person in jail. The Courts have postponed other matters where the Constitution requires that the defendant be there in person, such as if being sentenced to prison. Trials have also been suspended.

– April 13: The court expanded operations to include virtual conferences in pending cases.

– April 30: The court further expanded operations to allow electronic filing of motions and responses in pending cases and of appeals. Specialized problem-solving courts, like drug and mental health courts, were allowed to conduct virtual conferences as well.

– May 7: The Governor issued an executive order that extended some of the suspensions of criminal procedure requirements, allowed electronic appearances for some pleas, and addressed provisions concerning preliminary hearings for individuals held on felony complaints while grand juries are not being empaneled.

– June 6: The Governor issued an executive order that extended for another month some of the executive orders relating to criminal justice operations. This included requirements that the defendant be physically present in court, prosecutors’ deadlines for grand juries and trials, and addressed provisions concerning preliminary hearings for individuals held on felony complaints while grand juries are not being empaneled.

– For more information: 

⋅ April 6, 2020 – Press Release: Virtual Courts Up and Running Statewide
⋅ April 13, 2020 – Administrative Order: “Virtual Courts” and Expanded Activity in Certain Pending Nonessential Matters 
⋅ Courts Poster regarding wearing face coverings pursuant to Governor’s EO 202.17
⋅ Courts COVID-19 Poster (and Multi-Language Poster) regarding restrictions to entering the courthouse
⋅ New York State Courts website

• New York City jails and State prisons:

– March 14: New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision (DOCCS) suspended in-person visiting at all state prisons. The New York City Department of Correction (DOC) also suspended in-person visits in city jails.

– March 16: The Mayor ordered DOC to take emergency response measures to stop the spread of COVID-19 and to take all appropriate steps to facilitate remote communication between detainees and their family members, free-of-charge.

– Since March 16: City officials began working closely with partners across the criminal justice system to implement a plan for reducing the jail population, focusing first on the people in custody most vulnerable to COVID-19. Largely through efforts from judges, district attorneys, defenders, DOC, and DOCCS, more than 2,200 people have been released from jail. See the MOCJ COVID-19 fact sheet for more information.

– March 19: State prisons suspended all transfers of  incarcerated people in the state, effectively freezing in place all those currently incarcerated in the city jails. 

– March 25: Videoconferencing was set up in city jails for individuals to participate in court matters and be able to talk with their attorneys.

– For more information:

· New York City Board of Correction COVID-19 Updates
· New York City Department of Correction COVID-19 Updates 
· New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision COVID-19 Updates

Supervision in the community:

– Supervision for individuals released under a judge’s or City authority (those held pretrial and not released on their own recognizance or those serving a city jail sentence which is less than one year):

⋅ March 16: With the suspension of in-person arraignments starting March 17, the New York City Criminal Courts also suspended assigning new cases to New York City’s supervised release programs. Supervised Release is a court-ordered program, provided by non-profit organizations, that provides community-based supervision and support for individuals with pending cases in New York City Criminal or Supreme Court.

∴ Those programs transitioned existing participants to regular phone contacts only. For more information, click here

⋅ Pre-trial detainees held in on bail have had their conditions changed by judges, mostly being released on their own recognizance.

⋅ March 23: The City’s Department of Correction launched a new furlough program.

∴ Those furloughed to serve the remainder of their city sentences at homes are also now connected with Supervised Release providers. 

⋅ Failing to stay in contact with the provider or an arrest could result in a program violation and return to jail.

– Supervision for individuals released under State authority (State parole violators):

⋅ March 20: DOCCS suspended in-person reporting for all persons under community supervision. Those programs also transitioned participants to regular phone contact only with State parole authorities.

Additional Resources
MOCJ Community Services During COVID-19

Mayor’s Action Plan for Neighborhood Safety (MAP)

Centered in 15 NYCHA housing developments across New York City, MAP works through a coordinated network of city agencies and resident-led initiatives to help increase access to resources and strengthen neighborhood safety.

During the COVID-19 emergency, MAP partners including the Center for Court Innovation, Department for the Aging, and the Human Resources Administration, are conducting needs assessments of participating residents, and are connecting New Yorkers to critical resources including food, healthcare, and public benefits.

• This resource guide provides an overview of city-and community-based supports available as a response to the threat of COVID-19. Please note that this is a live document, and updated continuously.

• Additionally, the work in each MAP community continues through the commitment and adaptability of our partners. View an overview of how our programming continues to support communities.

The Office to Prevent Gun Violence’s (OPGV) Crisis Management System (CMS)

A central piece of OPGV’s work is the federation and support of the city’s CMS, which consists of 50 nonprofits operating in 22 neighborhoods in which upwards of 50% of NYC’s shooting incidents occur. These organizations mediate conflicts and connect individuals who have been exposed to high-risk factors to services that can reduce the long-term risk of violence.

• All provider programmatic services remain accessible via virtual platforms, including but not limited to daily outreach and social media engagement/monitoring.

• For more information or to find a provider, please visit 

See below for additional resources: 

View Fun at Home: Stay home — and play games, learn something new, or make something — to help save lives!

View the COVID-19 Resource Guide: Keeping our communities safe and engaged.

The Office for the Prevention of Hate Crimes (OPHC)

OPHC is focused on developing long-term, holistic strategies to prevent hate crimes, defined as personal attacks motivated by bias or prejudice. During the COVID-19 pandemic: 

• OPHC is working with the New York City Commission on Human Rights and NYPD to monitor and respond to reported hate and bias incidents resulting from fear and stigma related to COVID-19.

• The office is also providing resources to affected communities on how to report bias incidents and hate crimes

Read the COVID-19 Related Anti-bias Education Resource Guide.
Read the Fact Sheet on Hate and Bias Incidents Related to COVID-19.

The Office of Special Enforcement (OSE)

OSE is an innovative, multi-agency task force that is helping the City implement the various public health measures to prevent further spread of COVID-19:

• Staff are ensuring compliance with state and local executive orders requiring closure of non-essential business and operations.

• Staff are assisting with enforcement of social distancing guidelines for public spaces.

• To learn more about OSE, please visit the website.

Office of Pretrial Justice Initiatives (OPJI)

OPJI manages Supervised Release, a court-ordered program run by non-profit organizations,  that provides community-based supervision and support for individuals with pending cases in the New York City Criminal or Supreme Court.

• How Supervised Release has adapted to address COVID-19, for new and current particpants.

Read this Resource Guide for other service providers on Supervised Release.

Community Reentry Services

Community reentry initiatives provide a continuum of reentry services, including paid transitional employment, job training, mentoring, and wellness supports.

These teams continue to work with people returning from jail to assist them with the unique challenges COVID-19 presents during this transition period. Please see specific services information from providers below:

Guidance for Contracted Providers

• Non-profit providers are encouraged to frequently check the Business Continuity During COVID-19 website for the most up-to-date guidance available. 

• See here for general guidance from the Mayor’s Office of Contract Services (MOCS) Guidance for Human Services Providers.

See also:
Guidance for COVID-19 Invoice Submission

• City Council Discretionary Guidance

Department of Health Guidance

Health Info:

For the latest information on coronavirus and guidance on how to protect yourself. Please visit for more information: 

New York City Department of Health
New York State Department of Health
Centers for Disease Control

Your healthcare professional is always the best person to consult for questions about your personal health and well-being.

If you need help getting medical care, call 311.

You can get care in NYC regardless of immigration status or ability to pay.

You can also call the coronavirus hotline: 833-503-0447.