New York City is in the middle of a crime wave.
Shootings across the five boroughs have soared by 20 percent through Feb. 14, 2021, compared with the first six weeks of 2020. Subway violence is on the upswing, with MTA workers fearing for their lives after a man rampaged through the A line, killing two and wounding two others last month. Horrifying hate crimes against Asian Americans are surging. On Monday, a 65-year-old woman was kicked and punched in Midtown in broad daylight as bystanders watched and didn’t lift a finger to help.
And yet, in several forums where the current Democratic mayoral candidates are sharing their plans for the future, the main topic of discussion is not how to stop the violence or build a safer New York — but police reform. Rather than cracking down on crime, our mayoral hopefuls have bright and shiny new ideas to try, such as decarcerating, decriminalizing and even “reimagining” a new city entirely.
Mayoral candidate Maya Wiley, for example, plans to defund the NYPD by $18 million and cut its cadet classes by 2,250. She then hopes to give this newfound budget money to communities suffering from high rates of gun violence in the hope that summer youth jobs and after-school programs will deter gun violence.
I do wonder what would happen if Wiley got the chance to follow through on her promises. Will this bold move finally be the solution to our increasingly dangerous streets?
If there’s one candidate who believes the NYPD is an even bigger problem than rising crime, it’s Dianne Morales. During a recent forum held by Vocal-NY that was co-hosted by a lifelong criminal, a lifelong drug addict and a homeless person, Morales suggested cutting the NYPD budget by $3 billion. When asked if she would decriminalize possession of all drugs including heroin and crack cocaine, she responded, “Yes, yes, absolutely.”
Morales then went on to say: “It’s still very devastating to me that the recent subway stabbings were framed by some of my colleagues in this race as incidents that should be criminalized versus being seen as a public health and transformative justice issue.”
Somehow, Morales is devastated — not by our city’s rapid decline of public safety, but that we dared to charge a man suffering with mental illness with the crime of double murder.
In this new world of activists turned politicians, only the police are the problem.
Ray McGuire recently stated he wants to close Rikers but is opposed to building four new jails to replace it. Which begs the question: Where are you going to put the criminals? He then went on to suggest we create a new justice system based on the restorative justice centers found in Norway.
Scott Stringer called for disbanding the NYPD’s Strategic Response Group’s Disorder Control Unit, which served as riot police during the past year when the burning of cop cars was normalized during widespread violent protests.
Clearly, Stringer thinks these cars were burned peacefully, maybe during a parade. He also proposed we eliminate NYPD’s vice squad, which focuses on both prostitution and human trafficking.
Had any of these Democratic candidates bothered to Google NYC’s history of reducing crime, they would have quickly learned the solution: broken windows policing.
From 1965 to 1990, murders in New York City rose from 600 to more than 2,200. In 1993, Rudy Giuliani was elected mayor, and he and his Police Commissioner Bill Bratton started enforcing broken windows policing, cracking down on smaller quality-of-life offenses before more violent crimes could emerge. By 1997, the number of murders had plummeted to a mere 767 — a 60 percent decline in four years. Giuliani held the line for the remainder of his term, passing the baton to Mayor Mike Bloomberg, who continued his policies, ultimately bringing us to 2018 — a record-breaking year when the lowest crime rates were recorded in the city’s modern history.
For more than 20 years, NYC led the country in reducing crime rates, and was considered the safest big city in the world. Need people be reminded that, at a time when New Yorkers are obsessed with both race and police reform, an overall drop in violent crime saves lives of all colors — especially young males of color who happen to live in areas with higher levels of gang presence. And yet none of the Democratic candidates for mayor have even uttered the words “broken windows” — the only policy that has been shown to vastly improve NYC’s safety.
A bold new vision of decarcerating, decriminalizing and reimagining the city entirely will not reduce crime. Nor will it stem the unnecessary loss of innocent lives for years to come.
The right answer has been there all along. But when will any of these candidates stand up — and finally speak the truth?
Jason Curtis Anderson is a writer and community activist.