Mayor de Blasio got jarred out of his normal complacency about the upward trend in violent crime in the city April 7 when a reporter noted that, in addition to a tourist having been shot in Times Square, Police Commissioner Dermot Shea had expressed outrage about a 5-year-old girl having been struck in the head by a stray bullet, which fortunately just grazed her.
Initially, he offered his boilerplate answer, talking about the impact of the pandemic and how "deepening the bond between NYPD and community" was going to solve the problem.
Unconvinced, WINS reporter Juliet Papa told him that "people are afraid and you're advocating recovery when this is scaring people...this is happening in neighborhoods that are actually hardest-hit by crime and the pandemic. So what are you doing about that?"
Determined not to let her ruin his mood, Mr. de Blasio replied that when he spoke to residents, "They are focused on the city coming back. I do not believe New Yorkers live in fear. It's just not who we are."
Easy to say when you are accompanied by armed Detectives any time you step outside. But the mother of the wounded 5-year-old wasn't buying what she called the Mayor's "empty statement."
She told The Daily News, "He's not really saying anything. I don't really feel safe with shots going off in broad daylight."
Unable to dismiss her response as just a case of the media stirring up controversy, the following day, the Mayor sought to "clarify" his words, saying, "yeah, we have a lot of challenges we have to overcome, but we overcome them." Acknowledging there was legitimate fear and anxiety, he continued, "I'm saying New Yorkers don't get intimidated. We fight back."
It's not always easy to tell when it comes to Mr. de Blasio. In the nine-plus months since he collaborated with City Council Speaker Corey Johnson to cut $1 billion from the NYPD's budget, shootings and homicides have continued to rise, but except for some brief lip service from the Speaker, neither man has seriously reconsidered a bill they steered into law that makes it difficult for cops to restrain persons they are trying to arrest without running the risk of violating its provision against compressing that person's diaphragm, and facing criminal charges themselves.
Mr. de Blasio keeps talking about the happy day when the city will be able to close Rikers Island. Perhaps he's unaware that the inmate population has grown enough in recent months to make that impossible.
In mid-February, Correction Officers' Benevolent Association President Benny Boscio told us that the number of detainees over the period after the city released 1,500 inmates early in the pandemic for health reasons had surged from 3,900 to 5,400. When we noted in an editorial the problem this posed, given that the Rikers closing was contingent on the detainee number dropping below 5,000, one apologist for the jail system fired back that 5,400 was just slightly above the original calculation for that point in time.
Well, in less than two months since, the number of inmates has grown to 5,682—a rise of just about 46 percent from its low point 12 months ago. At the same time, the number of Correction Officers has dwindled by 1,400 the past year, and Mr. Boscio has said that a large number of the departures are resignations rather than retirements, which is a troubling indicator.
What has the city done to deal with this exodus? It has a plan to induct a lower-than-normal class of 400 COs, at a date still to be determined.
The management company that runs a luxury building on the West Side of Manhattan recently fired two concierges for their lackluster response to a brutal beating of a 65-year-old woman outside their building by a man who had been paroled after murdering his mother 19 years ago. The concierges had gone out to check on the woman after her assailant fled the scene and flagged down a police car, but they hadn't so much as dialed 911 while she was being attacked. The management company said the two men had not lived up to the standards it expects of its employees.
Good thing for the Mayor and Mr. Johnson that their bosses—city residents—haven't been as demanding. Not so good, however, for residents, or the law-enforcement personnel who have often in recent months found the city's top elected officials acting to make their jobs harder for them, then feigning astonishment when people like the mother of the wounded 5-year-old girl question whether they have a clue about what's going on in the real world.
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