Fear of crime is returning as a political problem in New York. For the first time in years, this could be a major factor in which voters to elect as their next mayor.
Early voting begins on Saturday in the city’s party primary elections. Ballots are chosen as the city emerges, full of hope, after a year in a pandemic lock, but also amid the alarming rise in shootings.
Violence is still far from the historical highs of the 1990s or even New York since the early 2000s. But it has forced leading Democratic candidates to balance police reform talks with promises not to allow New York to give up its long-gone days as a criminal capital.
“No one comes to New York, to our billions of dollars in the travel industry, if you have 3-year-olds shot dead in Times Square,”
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Adams, a former police captain who also co-founded a leadership group for black officers, climbed to the top of most polls as crime and police issues dominated the recent mayoral debate.
The race is still tight, as 2020 presidential candidate Andrew Young, former city health commissioner Catherine Garcia, city controller Scott Stringer and civil rights lawyer Maya Wiley are the best contenders in the field out of 13 candidates in the Democratic Party. elections.
The last day of voting is June 22, and the leading Democrat in predominantly democratic New York is likely to win the November general election and inherit restrictions from the term of Mayor Bill de Blasio.
The main Republican party includes Curtis Sliva, founder of the Angeli Guardian anti-crime group, against Fernando Mateo, a restaurant owner and defender of taxi drivers.
The shooting in Times Square and other high-profile crimes, such as the fatal shooting last weekend of a 10-year-old boy in Queens, have raised fears of a city under siege. “Stop the bloodshed,” shouted the recent front page of the New York Post, which warned of the transmission of “homelessness, dirt, crime and weapons” to an editorial in support of Adams.
The reality is more nuanced.
Many of the city’s most common types of crime, including robberies, thefts and grand thefts, remain close to historic lows. In the first five months of 2021, the total number of major crimes measured by the police department is at its lowest level since comparable statistics were available in the 1990s.
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But since the spring of 2020, the number of shootings has increased.
As of June 6, there were 181 homicides in New York, compared to 121 for the same period in 2019, an increase of 50%. This is the worst start to a year since 2011.
At least 687 people were injured or killed by gunfire by June 6. This is not a bad thing historically. During the same period in 1993, more than 2,400 people were shot. But this is the highest number for winter and early spring since 2000.
Many voters polled in a Spectrum News poll NY1 / Ipsos published this week chose “crime or violence” as the biggest problem facing New York, with racist injustice and police reform also in the top 10.
Rev. Al Sharpton, who has known most of the Democratic mayoral candidates for years, said crime was a big problem in black communities and progressive candidates needed to tackle it more openly.
“You know, two weeks after I did a eulogy at George Floyd’s funeral, I did a eulogy to a 1-year-old in Brooklyn who was killed by a stray bullet in a gang fight,” Sharpton said, referring to Davel Gardner, who was shot while sitting in his wheelchair. last summer. “So it’s not true that those of us who want police reform don’t want to deal with crime at the same time. And I think progressive candidates need to go further than that.”
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Maria Forbes, president of the Clay Avenue Tenants Association in the Bronx, said crime had risen in her neighborhood during the pandemic and had taken taxis to avoid the subway.
“I don’t feel safe getting on the train,” Forbes said.
But Forbes, like many New Yorkers, does not single out crime or any problem as the most pressing. Housing and education are also big problems, she said.
“You have people on the minimum wage who need housing, and six are in two bedrooms,” Forbes said.
Candidates differ significantly in their approaches to crime.
Wiley, who is vying with Stringer and former nonprofit CEO Diane Morales for the votes of the most liberal New Yorkers, will cut police budgets by $ 1 billion a year “and invest those funds directly in the communities hardest hit by gun violence.” “, according to her platform.
An advertisement for a Wiley campaign shows that police encountered a crowd of protesters from Black Lives Matter last year. In the ad, she says it’s “time for the NYPD to see us as people who deserve to breathe,” a reference to the deaths of Eric Garner and George Floyd.
Stringer says he will cut at least $ 1 billion over four years through measures such as shifting the mental health response to non-police crisis teams and reducing police overtime.
Garcia did not call for a reduction in the police budget, but said the minimum age of officers should be increased from 21 to 25 and recruits needed to live in the city.
Yang supports the requirement of permanent residence in the police, as well as increased supervision of the department, but rejects calls to reject the police.
“The truth is that New York cannot afford to neutralize the police,” he warned.
Adams, who spent 22 years at the New York City Police Department, says he was a victim of police brutality as a teenager and joined the forces to reform him from within.
A group formed by Adams called 100 Blacks in Law Enforcement, which takes care of racial profiling and recruiting more colored officers.
While New York mayoral races are often unpredictable, this is basically difficult to predict, as it will be the first to use graded voting, with voters up to five candidates.
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Turnout, usually low in mayoral elections, will also be a factor.
“The question is which issues will be most important to voters who show up on the first day,” said Susan Kang, a political scientist at John J. College of Criminal Justice.
Kang said crime is not the main problem he hears about knocking on the door of a city council candidate he supports in Queens.
“People talk to me about all kinds of things like property tax issues, street parking, public transportation,” Kang said. “Nobody tells me, ‘but what will this man do about crime?’ “