ITHACA, N.Y.—The Ithaca Police Department has released its 2020 Year End Crime Report, showing an overview of the department’s activity during the year—with this edition showing a jump in several petty crimes but a fall in arrests.

Read the whole report at the bottom of this article.

In total, the police responded to 16,948 calls for service in 2020, an 11.9 percent decrease from 19,242 in 2019. From the numbers, that reduction largely came from a steep fall in traffic-related calls. The most violent crimes remained fairly static, year over year: there was one murder in 2020, the same as 2019, no manslaughter reports, though rape reports did rise from 5 in 2019 to 12 in 2020.

The narrative of more violence in Ithaca, evidence of which is fairly specious, seems to only show up in assault reports, which were significantly higher in 2020 than 2019, both aggravated and simple assault. There were obviously many shots fired reports in 2020, with a press release coming seemingly once a week, but those reports were not included in the year end report.

Certain crimes jumped significantly from the previous year, some of which could be attributed to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to IPD chief Dennis Nayor, who released the inaugural year-end crime report last year. Nayor insisted the timing of the report, which comes amid the effort to ambitiously reform law enforcement in Tompkins County and the City of Ithaca, was merely a result of him trying to get the report out during the first quarter of the year.

Felony arrests were nearly the same, with 109 compared to 114 the year before, but misdemeanor arrests were much lower, a 32.5 percent decrease from 2019 to 2020 (606 compared to 409). Violation arrests, warrant arrests and DWI arrests all fell, though likely for a variety of reasons.

The impact of the pandemic, during the early parts of which nearly everyone was just staying inside, is clearly visible in the report. Traffic stops were cut by 68.7 percent, from 2152 in 2019 to 673 in 2020. Traffic tickets and parking tickets also fell precipitously, by 71.7 percent and 80 percent respectively. Police also responded to 36 percent less motor vehicle accidents.

But the economic devastation wrought by the pandemic also seems to show up in the numbers. Police had warned about a rash of burglaries throughout the year, and those are certainly reflected here: burglary reports were up 186 percent, from 50 to 143 in 2020, and there was a 34.4 percent increase in larceny calls, from 758 in 2019 to 1,019 in 2020. Perhaps most concerning of the crimes that jumped is robberies, which went from 9 to 33 in 2020, though 33 is still a fairly negligible number, all things considered.

“That could be partially a derivative of the economic hardships, but also our significant deficit in staffing has caused the department to be reactive versus proactive as I have been saying for quite some time,” Nayor said, renewing the department’s oft-mentioned complaints about its number of officers. “Also, our resources were pulled in so many directions as a result of the civil unrest, pandemic challenges, and violent crimes that were fully occupying our time.”

Criminal mischief and disorderly conduct were both higher than in 2019, potentially a result of the weeks of protests that took place after Minneapolis police killed George Floyd, and the tangentially related protests and counterprotests in the weeks before the 2020 election.

Use of Force

Nayor made it a point to include that out of the total number of calls, just 76 resulted in a use of force, representing .004 percent of calls. He continued that the 76 uses of force represented 5.7 percent of arrests and mental health calls.

The breakdown of use of force, as they are listed in the report: 58 of the uses of force were against male suspects, 16 were against female suspects, and two were against groups of people. Racially, 51 of the uses of forces were against white suspects, 21 were against Black suspects, one was against an Asian suspect and three people were of unknown race.

More specifically, 38 of the 76 were against white men, followed by 14 against Black men, 10 against white women, six against Black women, and two or lower against all other groups.

The type of force deployed: 11 times when police “pointed or brandished a firearm” but firearms were not used; four times when an “electronic device was displayed or brandished” with only one usage; two times when an “impact weapon was displayed or brandished,” though no actual uses; and one infamous deployment of chemical spray.

There were no police shootings this year, lethal or otherwise.

Nayor said the low use of force statistics were a result of de-escalation training that police have undergone locally.

“The very low number of force instances in comparison to arrests and calls for service is a direct result of continual de-escalation, quality training, and compassion response,” Nayor said.

The Ithaca Voice is compiling more stories based on the report, including about training hours and staff numbers, but you can also read the entire report here.

Matt Butler

Matt Butler is the Education & Public Health Reporter at the Ithaca Voice. He can be reached by email at mbutler@ithacavoice.com