Even with the “blessing” of President Joe Biden to the plan against armed violence in the Big Apple, presented by Mayor Eric Adams, which in some of its lines implies applying pushback levers to some police reforms, promoted during the protests over the murder of George Floyd, the path of the municipal president who barely served a month in power, does not look totally clear in this objective, neither in the Council, nor in the State Assembly nor in Congress.
Adams, albeit with a unrestricted support shown by the White House, to undertake his anti-crime program, at a time when the “bullet epidemic” has worsened in all the country’s big cities, he still has a steep hill to travel, in front of elected leaders of the Democratic Party.
If various polls are compared, everything points to the fact that the majority of New Yorkers aspire to stronger measures that go through strengthen support for law enforcement and review of legislation on the administration of criminal justice. But in the centers of municipal and state legislative power do not have the same opinion.
“The different tendencies of the Democratic majority in the Council are analyzing what is best for our city. But there are already approved budget bills and very firm reforms that cannot be repealed. We live in a moment in which we must find a point of balance”Council sources told The newspaper.
What moves in the Council?
In the heat of the national movements against police brutality unified around ‘Black Live Matter’, which demanded to defund the police, in the summer of 2020, with 32 votes in favor and 17 against, the New York City Council approved a budget for fiscal year 2021 which included a funding reduction of at least 1,000 million for the New York City Police Department (NYPD)
Although until now the Democratic steamroller of the municipal chamber has shown a certain “prudence” with the new approaches in matters of public security, debutant councilors such as Tiffany Caban They have already made their position clear: “We are looking with concern at some of the Mayor’s plans.”
The intention of reducing funds to the Uniformed, was reasoned in the De Blasio Administration, so that the budget would be redirected to community-based organizations that channel strategies to interrupt violence, in theory to “attack” the crime wave at its root and not punitively.
In this sense, the City Council President Ariadne Adamsregarding President Biden’s visit, stressed that we must address “the increase in violence that we are experiencing, along with many other cities, and recognize the need for multifaceted solutions”.
The leader of the Council has emphasized that a “balanced approach”. In other words, more investments in the communities and a “recognition” to NYPD.
State Assembly: “Crossfire“
The municipal president in his plan against weapons, encourages investment in community intervention plans is doubledbut openly demanded a review of state laws such as the reform of the Bail Law and the ‘Raise the Age’ legislation that practically removes minors from the prison circuit.
In both petitions, by Albany legislators, Adams has found a great wall.
Already the senators of Hispanic origin, Jessica Ramos and Julia Salazar, sponsors of criminal justice reforms, and even the Democratic leader of the majority of the State Senate, Andrea Stewart-Cousins, defined last week the terrain and on which side they are going to “play ”.
“It’s unfortunate that people have discovered that this is a very easy way to demonize aside and not get much work done. Returning discretion to judges to apply bail would trigger disproportionate acts against blacks, latinos and poor people”, underlined Steward-Counsins.
For her part, Senator Colombian-American, Jessica Ramos, representative from Queens, was more outspoken in his position: “Trying to undo the criminal age increase law, and blaming bail reform, are poorly disguised whistles that allow racist police and judicial practices. On the contrary, this year we are going to promote more reforms to the justice system.”
One of the arguments of the municipal president to put the magnifying glass to ‘Raise the Age’ legislationis that it is being used as a loophole so that the “gang members manipulate young people under the age of 18, to take the blame for weapons that are not theirs. My Administration does not seek to punish youth, but when it comes to guns, we must ensure there are consequences.”
On the board of opponents of Adams’s positionsis also Congresswoman Alejandra Ocasio-Cortez, a progressive Democrat from New York, who vociferously sides with the politicians who they go against beefing up police departments.
“We risk going back to the 1990s era, quote unquote, ‘tough on crime’ rhetoric, where policies can be put in place to make it look like we’re responding to public safety, but in reality they could be making those problems worse”pointed out once again this week the congresswoman born in the Bronx.
The return of the Anti-crime Unit
The other vertex of the Mayor’s proposal is the restoration of the dismantled Anti-crime Unit, called Neighborhood Safety Groupswhich as Adams described, will return “respecting citizenship.”
This means that within two weeks, there will be anti-violence teams in the 30 most violent neighborhoods in all five boroughs, where the 80% of gun violencein order to get more illegal weapons off the streets.
But these winds are reminiscent of some storms of the past, especially for civil rights organizations that have put on the table that they could be at the forefront of a reissue of the ‘Stop and Frisk’ policing strategy.
New York City was one of the first cities to experience the deployment of undercover police. These units of plainclothes officers, which operated out of 77 NYPD precincts and nine commands in public housing complexes, were they disbanded in the summer of 2020.
In a statement earlier this week, a network of local advocate organizations praised the Mayor’s commitment to allocate significant resources to strategies to mitigate gun violence, by expanding police intervention services mental health, job development and housing support.
They also expressed support for an expansion of the Summer Youth Employment Program and the Fair Futures Initiative for children in day care.
However, organizations such as the NY Legal Aid Society (Legal Aid) also described as “dangerous” that the Mayor has proposed reversing the reform of the Bail Law and reactivate the NYPD crime unit.
“The data is clear: bail reform has not contributed to the increase in crime. The proposal to alter New York’s bail system, by attempting to predict a person’s risk of being dangerous in the future, invites racial discrimination to our courts and will lead to an increase in the pretrial detention population, as it has in several other states,” he said. Anthony Posada, Legal Aid activist
The announcement of the reestablishment of the Anti-Crime Unit also raised concerns. Already some predict that it is a “return ticket”, with another name, to the policies that fueled the pattern of harassment and violence against black and Hispanic New Yorkers.
“Could be just a name change”
In fact, the conclusion of a report by the Legal Aid Society of New York is clear: the police practice of ‘Stop and Frisk’ that for decades has affected communities of color, took on a new air in 2020, in terms of its “disproportionate action against minority groups in the city.”
According to data shared by various organizations, approximately 91% of reported stop-and-frisk procedures involved New Yorkers from ethnic minorities. This seems to be a slight increase compared to 2018 and 2019, based on data derived from statistics released by the NYPD.
What is clear is that the number of officially reported revisions fell from 13,459 in 2019 to 9,544 in 2020.
“Any action to resume anti-crime units of this type, we run the risk that they become a trigger for disproportionate interaction to our communities of color. They change their names. They have apparently removed them in the past. But in the end, they always result in the same thing,” Posada concluded.
Shootings increased in five city districts by 31.6 percent last month compared to January 2021, a figure that also describes the climate of fear that grips small businesses in the Big Apple’s poorest neighborhoods most forcefully.
In this direction, the Dominican Francisco Mars of the Association of Wineries and Small Businesses of New York, ensures that supports in “all letters” the plan of Mayor Adams to put a “heavy hand” on crime.
“There are too many guns on the streets. And our members who are in the poor neighborhoods are the ones who suffer the most from this threat every day. The laws must be reviewed. We have to give our officers more support.” highlighted the winery leader.
In the opinion of the island immigrant, it is the poorest communities that suffer the tragedy of the presence of firearms in the streets.
“Politicians who talk about cutting funds for the police have private security and don’t have to work in dangerous sectors, where kids already have guns. We invite the new Mayor to continue with his plan”, he stated.
At south bronxlocated on the red map of violence for decades, small merchants consulted, accuse that it is “too obvious” that there are many weapons in the streets.
This is how he describes it Josephine Colon, a community leader and small businesswoman from Hight Bridge in Salsa County who says that almost every day he has to listen to stories of armed robberies.
“Traders are already devising ways to protect themselves. Putting bells. Closing earlier. Every day there are too many threats. We as residents and businesses must support any emergency plan that takes guns off the streets,” he shared.