Fear of crime remains a political issue in New York City. For the first time in years, it could be an important factor in who voters elect as their next mayor.
Early voting begins Saturday at the city’s party awards. Votes are cast while the city is coming up, full of hope, after a year of pandemic lockdown, but also in the midst of a disturbing rise in shootings.
Violence is still far from the historic heights of the 1990s or even in New York in the early 2000s. But it has forced the leading Democratic candidates to balance the conversation about police reform with promises not to let New York return to its long gone days as a crime capital.
“No one comes to New York in our million-dollar tourism industry if you have 3-year-old children shot in Times Square,”
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Adams, a former police captain who also co-founds a leadership group for black officers, has risen to the top of most polls as issues of crime and police have dominated recent mayoral debates.
However, the race remains tight, with presidential candidate Andrew Yang, former commissioner for sanitation in 2020, Kathryn Garcia, city councilor Scott Stringer and civil rights lawyer Maya Wiley being the best candidates out of 13 candidates in the Democratic vote.
The last day to vote is June 22, when the top Democrat in overwhelmingly democratic New York City is likely to win the general election in November and succeed the time-limited mayor Bill de Blasio.
The Republican primary has Curtis Sliwa, founder of the Guardian Angels group against crime, versus Fernando Mateo, a restaurant owner and spokesman for taxi drivers.
The shooting in Times Square and other high-profile crimes such as last weekend’s fatal shooting of a 10-year-old boy in Queens have sparked fears of a besieged city. “Stop the bloodshed,” shouted a front page of the New York Post, warning of surrendering streets “to homelessness, dirt, crime and guns” in an editorial endorsing Adams.
Reality is more nuanced.
Many of the most common forms of crime in the city, including robberies, burglaries and major thefts, remain near historic downturns. During the first five months of 2021, the total number of major crimes measured by the police has been at its lowest level since comparable statistics became available in the 1990s.
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But since the spring of 2020, the number of shootings has increased.
Through June 6, there were 181 homicides in New York City, up from 121 in the same period in 2019, an increase of 50%. It’s the worst start to a year since 2011.
At least 687 people were injured or killed by gunfire during June 6. It’s not historically bad. More than 2,400 people were shot during the same period in 1993. But that is the highest number for a winter and an early spring since 2000.
A majority of voters surveyed in a Spectrum News NY1 / Ipsos poll released this week chose “crime or violence” as the biggest problem New York faces, with both racial injustice and police reform also in top 10.
Pastor Al Sharpton, who has known most of the Democratic mayoral candidates for years, said crime is a major issue in black communities and that the progressive candidates should address it more directly.
“You know, two weeks after I did the praise at George Floyd’s funeral, I did the praise for a 1-year-old child in Brooklyn killed by a stray bullet in a gang fight,” Sharpton said, referring to Davell Gardner, shot while sitting in his stroller last summer. “So it’s not true that those of us who want police reform do not want to deal with crime at the same time. And I think the progressive candidates need to be more aware of that.”
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Maria Forbes, president of the Clay Avenue Tenants’ Association in the Bronx, said crime has risen in her neighborhood during the pandemic and that she has taken taxis to avoid the subway.
“I’m not sure I’m going to get on the train,” Forbes said.
But Forbes, like many New Yorkers, does not point to crime or any problem as the most urgent. Housing and education are also major problems, she said.
“You have the minimum wage that needs housing, and there are six of them in a two-bedroom,” Forbes said.
The graduates are very different in their approach to crime.
Wiley, who competes with Stringer and former nonprofit director Dianne Morales for the votes of the most liberal of New York citizens, would cut police budgets by $ 1 billion annually “and invest those funds directly in the communities most affected by weapons, “according to her platform.
A Wiley campaign ad shows police drove into a crowd of Black Lives Matter protesters last year. She says in the ad that it is “time for the NYPD to see us as people who deserve to breathe”, a reference to the deaths of Eric Garners and George Floyd.
Stringer says he would cut at least $ 1 billion. $ Over four years through measures such as transferring mental health response to non-police crisis teams and reducing police overtime.
Garcia has not called for cutting the police budget, but says officers’ minimum age should be raised from 21 to 25 and that new recruits should be required to live in the city.
Yang backs a residency requirement with police and strengthens oversight of the department, but rejects calls to ward off police.
“The truth is, New York City cannot afford to abolish the police,” he warned.
Adams, who spent 22 years in the New York Police Department, says he as a teenager fell victim to police brutality and joined the force to reform it from within.
A group founded by Adams called 100 law enforcement blacks concerned, advocated for racist profiling, and for recruiting more color officers.
While mayoral races in New York are often unpredictable, this primary is especially difficult to predict because it will be the first to use ranked polling, where voters rank up to five candidates.
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Turnout, usually low in mayoral primaries, will also be a factor.
“The question is what topics will be most important to voters who show up on primary day,” said Susan Kang, a political scientist at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice.
Kang said crime is not the most important thing she hears about knocking on doors for a city council candidate she supports in Queens.
“People talk to me about all sorts of things like property tax issues, street parking, public transportation,” Kang said. “Nobody says to me, ‘but what will this person do about crime? “”