Shootings across the city have gotten even more brazen this January as both civilians and officers alike find themselves falling victim to gun violence. There have been several high-key shooting incidents, quite literally since Mayor Eric Adams took office, prompting him to roll out a major plan to crack down on gun violence.

A 19-year-old girl was killed as she worked the night shift at a fast food restaurant in East Harlem. An 11-month-old baby was shot in the head by a gunman. Five NYPD officers have been shot, two died later, since the beginning of the month. And this Tuesday, two suspects are wanted for a shooting inside a waiting room at Jacobi Medical Center in Morris Park.

But, according to police stats, in the last 28 days there have been 100 shooting victims and 87 shooting incidents citywide as of this Tuesday. The NYPD’s fallen heroes information showed that 27 officers died in the line of duty in 2019 and seven died in 2020.

Public outcry for safety and action has been tantamount to the loudest ricochet of a bullet as the city goes through massive police funerals and family vigils for their lost loved ones.

On Jan. 22, Adams held a roundtable with grassroots organizations and Crisis Management System (CMS) groups about how to deal with the systemic gun violence issue, focusing on healing the community and preventing more shootings. Participants at the roundtable spoke about a “bottleneck” when it comes to accessing capital and paying their violence interrupter workers on the ground.

On Jan. 25, a shocking shooting of NYPD Officer Jason Rivera happened during a domestic violence call in which the shooter, Lashawn McNeil, 47, who later died, had a .45 in his hand and a loaded assault rifle under his mattress. Officer Wilbert Mora also died later in the hospital from injuries sustained in the shooting.

McNeil’s mother, Shirley Sourzes, has been quoted saying that her son had mental health issues, an obsession with guns, and that she regrets making the 911 call that resulted in three deaths, reported the New York Post.

“We’ve made it difficult for people to say that their loved ones need help,” said Adams during Tuesday’s briefing on gun violence. “And so by having mental health professionals partner, they should be the first line of responding to somebody’s conditions where a person does not, knowingly, does not have a weapon.”

Adams released a comprehensive Blueprint to End Gun Violence, which lays out numerous policies on addressing gun violence as a public health crisis. Major points include targeting the Iron Pipeline that’s funneling illegal weapons into the city, beefing up anti crime units to seize illegal guns and building cases against weapons traffickers, fully funding anti-violence CMS groups, reevaluating “Raise the Age” legislation that creates loopholes for younger gun carriers, and pouring resources into solving the mental health crisis.

Over the longer term, Adams also plans to grow economic opportunities, improve education and summer youth employment, and get more support from district attorneys and judges in the court system in order to tackle the root causes of gun violence.

Not everyone agrees with Adams’ tactics of more police and anti crime units, though.

Council Speaker Adrienne Adams, who spent years on the public safety committee, said in a statement that while she appreciates the mayor’s hyperfocus on the epidemic of gun violence in the city, communities have raised concerns about plainclothes units despite Adams’ promises that undercover cops will be more “identifiable.”

“Concerns have been raised in communities about the plainclothes unit’s ability to reduce violence, given its past history of initiating undue violence. This proposal—along with others to change city and state criminal justice policies—requires further public dialogue and transparency,” said Speaker Adams.

Keli Young, VOCAL-NY’s Civil Rights Campaign Coordinator, said in a statement there is no “honest conversation” about gun violence without acknowledging the violence perpetrated by the NYPD.

“We can all agree that community investments are critical to public safety, but rolling back hard-fought reforms and implementing a ‘dangerousness standard’ will drive racial disparities, mass incarceration and worsen the conditions on Rikers,” said Young. “We need our elected allies to push back on this ‘tough on crime’ approach and propose budgets that include robust investments that actually meet the needs of our communities.”

Some organizations, such as Legal Aid Society, Brooklyn and Bronx Defender Services, and others, are dead set against Adams’ plans.

“We do not support Mayor Adams’ focus on discredited punitive and surveillance-based strategies, including his call for additional rollbacks to bail and discovery reform, amendments to Raise the Age, increased use of facial recognition, and reinstatement of the NYPD’s historically racist Anti Crime Unit,” said criminal justice groups in a joint statement via twitter.

Retired detective Marc Claxton told the Amsterdam News, “The mayor’s crime suppression strategy is an ambitious, comprehensive plan for overall public safety. While many will focus on the reconstitution of a plainclothes enforcement unit, the most impactful elements include a collaborative city-state-federal enforcement and prosecution effort, expanded Critical Management Systems support and resources, imbedding intervention, mental health and social service providers with law enforcement, recommending legislative amendments to complement the anti-crime efforts and increased judicial appointments to clear the criminal courts case backlog.”

Claxton, the director of Black Law Enforcement Alliance, continued, “Mayor Adams has promised that the plainclothes unit will practice precision policing, focused on firearms arrests while operating within the constitutional boundaries.

They are required to be readily identifiable as police officers, closely supervised and must record ALL interactions on body worn cameras. Recent gun violence, including the shooting of an 11-month-old child and the killing of two police officers has undoubtedly made implementation of the plan a high priority. Although there will be significant criticism and opposition, it appears that there is a window of opportunity to operationalize this plan with majority public support.”

Ariama C. Long is a Report for America corps member and writes about culture and politics in New York City for The Amsterdam News. Your donation to match our RFA grant helps keep her writing stories like this one; please consider making a tax-deductible gift of any amount today by visiting: https://tinyurl.com/fcszwj8w

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