Mayoral wannabes are mute on NYC’s biggest problem: violence

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The campaign for mayor has been compared to a clown car, with the many wannabes all jammed into one Zoom screen, but it’s really more like a dancing poodle act, with all the candidates tottering around, tutus askew, clumsily trying to keep in step to the same ultra-progressive tune. 

The biggest story in New York City today is public safety. Murders were up 40 percent in 2020. Shootings doubled. Pushing people in front of trains seems to be the new diversion for the deranged class, and random street violence has become the norm. One would think that at least someone running to be mayor would demand safer streets, law and order and an end to rising crime. 

But the opposite appears true. In fact, to listen to the candidates, one would think the primary problem in New York City — the one touching everyone’s day-to-day life — is . . . rampant police brutality.  

Maya Wiley, Mayor de Blasio’s former legal counsel and the person we can thank for the erection of all those bizarrely dystopian “digital kiosks” around town, says she “will bring the police to heel.”  

Last summer, Wiley protested the NYPD’s efforts to arrest activist Derrick Ingram for, in her words, being “at a Black Lives Matter rally with a bullhorn, expressing himself.” In fact, Ingram assaulted a cop by placing his megaphone against her ear and shouting into it, causing the officer severe pain and hearing loss. Wiley demanded that Police Commissioner Dermot Shea resign for sending officers to arrest Ingram. 

Andrew Yang wants to hold police “accountable” not just for all the civil-rights violations they allegedly commit but also for their failure to arrest criminals vigorously enough. The contradiction here — that the cops are both doing their jobs too vigorously and not hard enough — sounds like a prescription for inducing helplessness.

City Comptroller Scott Stringer and Ray McGuire both want to move money away from policing and toward hiring more mental-health practitioners to answer 911 calls involving mentally-ill people. This is the kind of proposal that sounds great as long as there are no follow-up questions.

People don’t always call police because a mentally-ill person is acting very depressed or having disordered thoughts. They often call because someone is behaving in a manner that is scary and potentially harmful. And in those cases, cops are indicated because they are trained to deal with violent situations and are provided with protective gear and, as a last resort, weapons. 

It’s funny: Nobody ever asks social workers or mental-health professionals if they want to be the first responders when someone is attacking people with a knife.  

Shaun Donovan says the problem is police are too militarized and need to have all their high-grade combat equipment removed. The NYPD may have a few military-style vehicles in storage somewhere, but the main complaints about their crowd control last summer seemed to be involve batons, bicycles and pepper spray. 

Brooklyn beep Eric Adams, who was a cop for 22 years and ought to know better, continues to repeat foolish admonitions about the danger of calling 911. Back in June, when amateur pyrotechnicians were having unauthorized fireworks displays all night, Adams told his constituents not to call the police, lest they foil the spirit of the George Floyd protests.

“Go talk to the young people or the people on your block who are using fireworks,” he suggested. “Maybe we should say ‘Good morning’ to them. Maybe we should say, ‘Hello, how was school? Do you need a summer job?’”  

One Brooklyn resident, Shatavia Walls, took Adams’ advice. She asked a man to stop lighting fireworks outside the Pink Houses projects in East New York. Offended, he shot her eight times, killing her. Yet Adams continues to insist that calling the police is the dangerous option. 

Protesters and activists are married to the idea that police escalate tensions. But the opposite is usually the case. Street disputes escalate because tempers are high and egos are at stake. Cops, as professional outsiders, don’t care about the details of the beef: Their job is just to defuse the situation. 

This mayoral race is shaping up to offer New Yorkers a dismal choice among a set of candidates who are afraid to face the real problems we are dealing with. We deserve better. 

Seth Barron is managing editor of The American Mind.

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