Most Major Crimes Are Down. Why Are Assaults Up?

Just before noon last Saturday, a 9-year-old girl was with her mother at Grand Central Terminal when a man strode up to the child and, without warning, punched her in the face, according to the police.

The child, dizzy and in pain, was taken to the hospital. Jean Carlos Zarzuela, 30, a man who had been staying in a homeless shelter in East Harlem, was quickly arrested and charged with assault in the third degree, harassment and endangering the welfare of a child.

It was the second time in nine days that Mr. Zarzuela had randomly attacked someone at the terminal, the police said. On April 4, they said, he punched a 56-year-old woman in the face, causing her nose to bleed and her left eye to swell shut.

And it was among a number of recent assaults that have unnerved New Yorkers, who have seen a rash of attacks reported on the streets and on the subway.

Police leaders and Mayor Eric Adams have trumpeted sharp decreases in the number of murders, rapes, robberies and burglaries since 2022, when crime rates began to fall in the city following a surge of violence during the coronavirus pandemic. Most major crimes remain at a higher level than they were in 2019, but officials said the trend was a promising sign that the city is rebounding.

Still, assaults continue to vex police and city leaders. Felony assaults, a major crime category defined as an attack where a dangerous weapon is used or a serious injury results, are up in recent years. So are misdemeanor assaults, such as the one at Grand Central, in which a victim is punched, kicked or hit but no weapon is used.

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