We’re now 18 months into Bill de Blasio’s mayoralty, and despite what his opponents predicted, the streets of New York do not look like something out of Mad Max: Fury Road. However, this year gun violence in the city is up 20 percent from the same period in 2013, and homicides are up 20 percent from last year. On Monday, NYPD Chief of Department James O’Neill admitted, “[W]e are struggling with homicides and shootings.”
Once again, Mayor de Blasio’s stance on law enforcement is being called into question (the cover of Sunday’s New York Post read “Victim kin’s plea to de Blasio: ‘WE NEED STOP AND FRISK’”), but he insists that reducing stop-and-frisks and low-level marijuana arrests isn’t responsible for the increase in shootings and homicides. In fact, in an impromptu press conference on Tuesday afternoon, de Blasio predicted that his policies will help the NYPD reduce gun violence by the end of the year. “We’ve taken time away from the needless stops,” de Blasio said, according to DNAinfo. “We’ve taken time away from the low-level marijuana arrests. We’ve put that time into going after serious crime. You’re giving them better technology, better training. That will clearly turn the tide.”
De Blasio said the spike is “something we take very seriously,” but noted that the overall crime rate is down 6 percent from last year. (He said twice that there are “2,700 fewer crimes” in the city, according to the New York Times.) He also pointed out that we’ve been here before. “If you recall last year, we were at a point just around this time of year — at the end of the spring, beginning of summer — where we saw an uptick in crime. There was tremendous concern in communities around the city, rightfully,” he said. “We turned those numbers very quickly and intensely, so that by the end of 2014, we had had the safest year in decades.”
The mayor said “steps are already being taken” to combat the problem, which is mostly related to “gang and crew-related activity” in a few neighborhoods. Crime tends to increase in the warmer months, and this year the NYPD will be starting its “Summer All Out” program — in which hundreds of officers are redeployed to high-crime areas — a month earlier. Officers will also have more overtime on weekend nights.
One tactic the de Blasio administration won’t be trying is increasing the size of the police force. The City Council is urging the mayor to hire another 1,000 police officers, but in an interview with ABC News that aired Sunday, de Blasio said that’s unnecessary, especially because the department has added new technology like ShotSpotter, tablets, and smartphones. “I’ll take again the point of view of what we saw last year, with the same exact number of police officers but without a lot of the tools that we’re now using,” he said.
Tuesday night during his last appearance on Jon Stewart’s Daily Show, de Blasio said that despite what his critics say, he stands by the police reforms he’s implemented. “You know as well as I do, the minute shootings go up, and the minute murders go up, political pressure is going to become immense. Get this out of our sight. People don’t care about the Constitution when they feel like it’s not safe,” said Stewart during a portion of the interview that didn’t make it on air. “Well, I think the good news is, in this city, we had a real thorough debate, and people did vote in favor of constitutional rights and respect for communities, while having strong policing,” said de Blasio. “There’s no dichotomy here.”