Tuesday, July 19, 2022

What's the Matter Here?

I've lived in New York nearly half my life now and because it's a blue city in a blue state, I've never really gotten into the political weeds. 

In recent years, you may have heard, locals have been insisting that crime is suddenly "through the roof." From what little I've read, there has been an uptick. But the uptick is to 2007 levels -- in the midst of the Bloomberg administration's "Disneyfication" of the city -- so a far cry from the lawlessness of the 1970s and '80s people claim we are seeing again. But an increase is still an increase, and people are definitely noticing.

Case in point: After experiencing zero crimes in two decades, I have been assaulted twice in recent years -- sucker punched in the gut once during Pride weekend (Chelsea), and I had my phone snatched while sitting at a sidewalk cafe, the thief bashing me in the mouth as he swiped it (UWS) -- so I'm certainly open to theories as to what is "going on." (My subway experiences are definitely much jarring these days, too.) 

When Damian and I moved to the (Lower) Upper West Side last year, I joined NextDoor, thinking it might be useful. Turns out it's like most online forums -- a place for cranks to bitch about everything under the sun, regardless of how it relates to our neighborhood. Recently, however, an elderly resident wrote of her fears, saying, "I have 3 fellas asking for change literally on one corner of my block daily. I'm saddened -- for them and the city." 

Here is the response that is getting the most traction. I cannot vouch for its accuracy, but some of it does ring true with complaints I have heard from other New Yorkers:

Around 2012, the City Council ordered the police to back off qualify of life crimes. So, they have not been able to make quality of life arrests or issue fines anymore. Believe me, everything I worked so hard for during 16 years on the 20[th] Precinct Community Council (1994-2010) was thrown right out the window. I retired from the Council in 2010, so it was not during my tenure as a community activist. But needless to say, watching all the work I put in go down the drain has not been pleasant. Then the City Council sent to Albany a series of anti-police bills, including "bail reform," which meant that bail was out the window, and perps arrested went right back onto the streets. It's like catch and release of fish, only it's not fish. That's why you keep hearing of perps who have 25 to 100 arrests and nothing can hold them. The mental hospitals upstate were opened and everyone was released back to the streets as well. Unless you vote for law and order candidates (and there are plenty of Democrats who believe in law and order, so this is not a matter of either/or), we will continue spiraling downward. Unfortunately, Tom Suozzi did not win the Dem primary election for Governor, and Hochul thus far will not rescind bail reform, or recall Manhattan DA Bragg, who downgrades serious crimes to misdemeanors and does things like let perps run free and jail hard-working people trying to defend themselves, like the bodega worker who stabbed the guy trying to attack him. The City is indeed upside down. But until we get appropriate politicians in office, it will not get any better. 
Interesting that the pandemic isn't even mentioned, although maybe it's a given that these alleged policies would only become worse as times get tougher for many. Also find the year 2012 to be surprising. Perhaps this person misspoke -- or maybe the City Council started to pressure the police before it became law (pardon my catch up) -- but I found a 2015 article that says it was then-City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito who wanted the city to decriminalize low-level offenses such as public urination and turnstile-jumping and that Mayor Bill de Blasio (2014-2021) strongly opposed the idea. (He argued that his "broken windows" principle is to "address little things that come from big things. You respond to quality of life concerns that come from the community.") It sounds like he later caved and signed the Criminal Justice Reform Act in 2016, which must be why he still shoulders the blame. (To be clear, I'm not sure what is causing the uptick in "major" crimes. Just trying to get the timeline correct.)  

Feel free to weigh in if you have greater insight. 

1 comment:

j said...

I work in mid town and it has never been this horrible- homeless people everywhere. The mentally disturbed are on the streets too and lets not start with the pot smoking in public. The theater district which is a major tourist destination is now a nightmare - not wonder some people refuse to come back to the offices in person. Have I personally seen more crime- well except for people just walking into the subway with out paying. And yes a friend was attacked after he refused to give money to a panhandler. Last week I saw a shirtless white guy carrying a fishing pole on Broadway- he started swinging and beating up a traffic light- just another fun day in NYC.