Saturday, April 13

Crime: Gun violence spills over into New York | International


A police officer guards the access to the building where two officers were killed in the line of duty on January 22, in Harlem, New York.
A police officer guards the access to the building where two officers were killed in the line of duty on January 22, in Harlem, New York.SPENCER PLATT (AFP)

The violence overwhelms the New York authorities. In parallel to the rest of the country, the city has experienced an upturn in crime since the beginning of the pandemic that seems to have accelerated in recent weeks. The strong-arm promise of the new mayor, Eric Adams, collides with the progressive wing of his fellow Democrats and with social activists. The context is different from that of the bloody eighties and nineties: after the emergence of the Black Lives Matter movement, police excesses are under scrutiny. Insecurity hampers economic recovery and feeds inequality in the neighborhoods most affected by the pandemic: in a vicious circle, depressed areas generate and suffer violence, which then reaches other neighborhoods.

After just four weeks as mayor, Adams faces a crisis that could define his term. The former police officer who arrived at the town hall promising more security sees how his promises collide daily with the lethal reality of the streets. Murders, heists that cost lives; a baby injured by a stray bullet. The homicide of two police officers in the line of duty two weeks ago has been a turning point in the councilor’s short journey. His proposals to address the violence — essentially increasing the police response — have drawn criticism, especially from supporters of cutting the police budget, a move that has been buoyant since the death at the hands of a police officer of African-American George Floyd in May 2020. Gun violence hits other cities, but New York is the showcase: a stray bullet in rush hour in Times Square is not the best calling card for a city yearning to recover.

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Adams receives Joe Biden this Thursday in New York to discuss and address “a comprehensive strategy to combat violence.” On Monday, the president proposed his recipe, not unlike the mayor’s. “We must hire more police officers and invest in prevention programs in the communities,” he said. The social spending plan stalled in the Senate calls for a $5 billion allotment for the latter, while some Democrats, such as influential Senate leader Chuck Schumer, suggest that the only way to prevent illegal gun sales and gun crime them is through federal intervention.

In 2020 there were 1,530 shootings in the city, more than double the previous year; in 2021, there were 1,877, the highest number in decades. Last year, arrests for firearms throughout the city, whose laws on possession and use are among the most restrictive in the country, increased 6% from 2020 and 34% compared to 2019. The call Iron Pipeline, the route used to smuggle weapons from states in the South and the Midwest of the country to the Big Apple, operates by the piece, and the demands of the police are of little use, nor are their offers of free iPads and cash to the to surrender their weapons, without questions or legal consequences.

In early January, Cristal, a 19-year-old Puerto Rican employee at a hamburger restaurant, was shot in the chest during a robbery for just over $100 in cash. Sam, owner of a pizzeria that shares a partition with the local, confirms that in the neighborhood – the predominantly Latino East Harlem – there is a palpable sense of fear. “Some businesses are moving up their closing time and we are thinking about it. With what it has cost us to weather the pandemic, many of us fear that this could be the final blow. People are withdrawing, they are going out less. Hopefully action will be taken soon; in fact, you see more police officers, but that always happens after the fact,” he says.

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The ravages of the pandemic, which has triggered inequality —the unemployment rate in New York was 8.8% in December, more than double the national rate (3.9%)—, explains for some the rampant crime. “The pandemic has caused tremendous economic dislocation and considerable upheaval in New York. With unemployment at 15% among workers who have not attended college and among African Americans, and 24% among 18-24 year olds, many neighborhoods will remain fractured and on edge until more is done to restore opportunity. labor. As a city, we can’t afford to sit back and wait for the job market to recover on its own, because it will take years,” says James Parrott, director of economic policy at the New School’s Center for New York Studies.

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The youngest segment of the population is the mayor’s objective with regard to prevention programs, and specifically the 250,000 young people between 16 and 24 years of age who neither study nor work. As Governor Andrew Cuomo did in his day, Adams proposes temporary employment plans, as an apprenticeship, to keep them busy during the summer. A proposal that many see ineffective for alicorta. The criminal response, and specifically the moderation in this regard by the new district attorney for Manhattan, is also a source of political controversy. “There have been four epidemics of gun violence since the 1960s. They rise and fall in predictable ways, often correlated with public health crises [como la del crack]. Historically, law enforcement has had little to do with their demise,” says Jeffrey Fagan, a Columbia law professor. “The policies of mass arrests, a common response to past epidemics, did little to stem the flow of weapons. Mayor Adams is right to focus on fighting drug dealers,” the goal of a new police unit that will patrol the streets.

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Alex Vitale, a professor at Brooklyn University and coordinator of the Police and Social Justice Project, differs on the effectiveness of the new measures. “The mayor’s plan is almost completely devoid of evidence to support his interventions of firm hand against crime. It is based on political slogans rather than empirical evidence and, along the way, risks recreating the conditions that have given rise to Black Lives Matter, such as the murder of Amadou Diallo by an anti-crime unit.” Diallo, an unarmed Guinean immigrant, was shot 41 times at the door of his house in 1999. The four agents were acquitted and the case was, among others, the germ of the enough already to police brutality against minorities. The risk of excessive police intervention is now more vigilant than ever.

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