Mayor Adams needs to call out exactly who’s handcuffing NYC on crime

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The Manhattan Chamber of Commerce hosted its first-ever Anti-Crime Summit Thursday. That the chamber thought the event was necessary is a bad sign: If things were going well, it would leave the pols to it. The mayor retains a lot of goodwill, largely because he’s not Bill de Blasio — but he’s running out of time for spectacular early results.

Eric Adams’ summit speech illustrated the problem: The mayor can’t decide whether he wants to declare victory or issue a crisis call for help.

He ended on the victory note, telling the crowd, “We’re in a good place, New York. “New York is back,” he declared. “We’re seeing a decrease in crime.” But he’s also smart enough to know you don’t sell a win to people who feel like they’re losing.

Crime in core Manhattan is not down.

In the Manhattan South patrol borough — the half of Manhattan with major businesses — felony crime for the month ending Jan. 15 was up 13.3% percent from a year earlier. It’s up 24.7% relative to 2019, before the pandemic.

These poor results have brought down the whole borough. Serious crime in all Manhattan is up 5.3% from a year ago and 19.8% relative to 2019. 

And Manhattan is faring worse than the city. Citywide, serious crime is down 1.3% from last year.

The summit’s very location, between Midtown and Hell’s Kitchen, was apt, if the goal was to illustrate the problems. Just a block away, barely 24 hours before, a gang of robbers shot an illegal-pot shop worker.

Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg claimed his office is underfunded and "the first issue is resources” when it comes to curbing crime.
Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg claimed his office is underfunded and “the first issue is resources” when it comes to curbing crime.
Robert Miller

And not even half a block away is a huge storefront that’s been empty for a year because the drugstore there for a quarter-century closed due to mass shoplifting. As Walgreens “asset protection director” Joe Stein told conference-goers, “When these stores close, you create blight.” 

Manhattan’s Upper West Side was the site of the year’s first subway murder later last week, when a violent convict on state parole fatally pushed a man; not far away, an elderly woman was bound and killed in her apartment.

When a moderator asked a panel of business owners and private security officials whether they agreed with the mayor that “New York is back,” the answer was — laughter.

One speaker did allow that things are “better.” Yes, they’re a little better because Broadway and the reopened tourist trade have brought foot traffic, and police are dealing more assertively with the dangerous street vagrants. 

But when laughter is the instinctual reaction, New York needs to do better than awful.

Much of the slow roll isn’t the mayor’s fault. As he said in his speech, state law “handcuffs” police in closing down the city’s 1,400 illegal, all-cash pot shops, like the one where the worker was shot last week. So an incompetent Legislature in drawing up its pot regulations saddled New York with hundreds of nuisance stores that attract crime.

But Adams doesn’t put it that way. “Because of the way the rules were put through Albany . . . we have to work around that,” he observed, rather than calling on the governor and Legislature to fix the rules — now. 

After the mayor left, a panel of the state’s most powerful elected officials showed they aren’t in the mood for more changes to hastily enacted laws that have “handcuffed” New York, whether criminal-justice or marijuana “reforms.” 

So they’ve all agreed that the problem is “resources.” “We have made changes,” state Sen. Jamaal Bailey (D-Bronx) insisted. “Repeat offenders can be held.” 

NYPD Chief of Department Jeffrey Maddrey noted at the summit that police are  “constantly arresting the same people."
NYPD Chief of Department Jeffrey Maddrey noted at the summit that police are “constantly arresting the same people.”
Robert Miller

Alvin Bragg, Manhattan district attorney, acknowledged state changes to the evidence-discovery process have forced his office to drop important cases, including domestic-violence cases.

But he, too, implied the state can fix the problems with cash. “We are underfunded,” he said. “The first issue is resources.” 

Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz (D- Bronx) blamed cops for failing to arrest suspects. “It’s really not their call to decide whether somebody should be arrested,” he said of the NYPD

To which NYPD Chief of Department Jeffrey Maddrey gamely responded that police are “constantly arresting the same people. . . . They would not be repeat offenders if the officers were not constantly arresting them.”

Eventually, New Yorkers will grow tired of excuses — but they will blame the mayor. He needs to be clearer who is “handcuffing” the city and exactly how.

Nicole Gelinas is a contributing editor to the Manhattan Institute’s City Journal.

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