During the first 2020 presidential debate in June, then-candidate Mayor Bill de Blasio touted New York City’s drop in crime. But even as the number of shootings has dramatically decreased across the city over the past decade, a troubling trend has emerged: The proportion of people dying from gunshots has been rising in some pockets.
Data obtained from the New York Police Department and analyzed by The Trace/Measure of America/THE CITY shows this problem has been most severe in Queens.
We mapped the 12,000-plus shootings recorded by the NYPD between 2010 and October 2018, and our analysis found that the further away someone was from a Level I or II trauma center when they were shot, the more likely they were to die.
Nowhere fared worse than neighborhoods in southern Queens, particularly those below Hillside Avenue, where more residents live further than three miles from a trauma center than anywhere else in the city.
There used to be more trauma coverage in the borough. But in February 2009, two hospitals closed, and one of them contained a Level I trauma center.
In the following two years, the gunshot fatality rate in Queens jumped from under 16% to more than 23%. That put the borough’s gunshot fatality rate 30% higher than in the rest of the city.
Since then, every year except for 2016, the death rate from gunshots in Queens has been higher than in the city as a whole.
“How well your trauma system works, and how good your care is across the country is a big mosaic, and where you are will determine your outcomes,” said Dr. Robert Winchell, the former chair of the trauma systems committee for the American College of Surgeons.
Today, most areas of New York City have access to multiple trauma centers while southern Queens has only one: Jamaica Hospital Medical Center. But financial documents, audits and state reports indicate the facility is ailing.
The hospital was in the red 12 of the 13 years between 2005 and 2017. It finished that year with a deficit of more than $66 million, according to IRS filings and an independent audit.
“I’m not sure how you keep the doors open with that,” said Winchell, who is also chief of New York-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center’s trauma division.
I'm not sure you can either when the city would rather spend $11,000,000,000 on tower jails.