This week, New York City Mayor Eric Adams released “The Blueprint to End Gun Violence,” with the purpose of alleviating a “public health crisis that continues to threaten every corner of the city.” The plan was prompted by the rise in violent crime that has accompanied the pandemic, made vivid by the deaths of two police officers who were shot last week in a Harlem apartment in of a routine domestic-dispute call. In 2020, the number of shootings in New York more than doubled to 1,531 over the previous year; they climbed again, to 1,877 in 2021, the highest figure in decades., the New York Times reports.
One problem for the mayor is that these statistics are not known by most New Yorkers — particularly those still working at home in moneyed neighborhoods to which they have more or less retreated. Gun crime has been concentrated in low-income, minority communities, where COVID has also caused the greatest physical and psychic damage.
Not every quarter of the city is likely to respond to Adams’s call for “all of us” to fight mounting violence. Adams is left selling aggressive policing policies in a post-George Floyd world to constituents who do not necessarily recognize the urgency.
In the 1970s through the early ’90s, when the fiscal crisis and the crack epidemic produced an epic period of crime, there was broad acceptance that the situation was unsustainable because violence did in fact “threaten every corner.”
Although high-poverty areas were disproportionately affected, as they are now, schoolchildren on the Upper East Side were routinely mugged for money or bus passes, leaving mothers to send them out door with a few extra dollars in case they encountered an assailant.
Now, Adams' mayor’s plan has landed in a moment when liberals have never been so divided in their philosophies about crime reduction. Proponents of criminal-justice reform immediately criticized what they perceive as a regression to some of the most harmful practices of law enforcement. The city’s leading public defender groups said they did not support the “focus on discredited punitive and surveillance-based strategies.”