Mayor Eric Adams is a former transit cop who essentially ran on a platform of ‘law and order’ and police reform when it came to public safety. In the wake of continued violent shootings across the city, community leaders are weighing-in on his comprehensive Blueprint to End Gun Violence.
Most appreciated the “balanced” approach to policing and community investment, while others staunchly maintained that some of his policies are regressive.
Firstly, everyone could agree with Adams’ plan that more investment in community-based policing and the Crisis Management System (CMS), as well as resources such as education, mental health treatment and housing, is more essential than ever in neighborhoods.
“We want to work with Mayor Adams to ensure the best outcome for our community in East Harlem and throughout our city, and we are very glad that he has pledged to expand the essential Cure Violence work we all do every day,” said Omar Jackson, director of SAVE East Harlem.
Jackson said that the SAVE team has participated in hundreds of violence interruptions and de-escalations in East Harem by building lines of communication and actively engaging with young people, which they believe must be a key component of any plan to reduce gun violence in the city.
On the same note, the Rev. Dr. Demetrius Carolina, who runs the Central Family Life Center and the True 2 Life CMS group out on Staten Island, said that smart community policing benefits people who are for “pro-community” and “pro-police.” Carolina said that the city needs to allow time for the new mayor, city council, and NYPD leadership to come together and strategize, without standing on rhetoric.
“As both a parent, as a pastor, as a community leader and executive director of a non profit, I believe in a balanced approach to gun violence,” said Carolina. “Often we hear the voices of one side or the other. The reality is that we need progressive, innovative thinking to overcome a very old and serious matter. I believe there’s room to be one in the same.”
Oresa Napper-Williams, executive director and founder of Not Another Child Inc., lost her son, Andrell Napper, to gun violence in 2006 in Brooklyn. She is excited that CMS will be a featured part of the gun violence reduction plan and that all city agencies should be working in tandem with violence interrupters.
Adams also released an open letter from more than 200 business, civic, and labor leaders who clearly support his efforts to reduce crime in the city. The letter stated that during the pandemic, both crime and quality of life conditions worsened in the Central Business Districts, in many residential neighborhoods, on the public transit system, and in local shopping strips. “The mayor has taken a courageous position and we all share responsibility to help him carry out his agenda,” said the letter.
But, Adams’ call for rollbacks on bail reform, Raise the Age legislation, and anti crime unit disbandment has struck a fairly negative cord. Last week’s and this week’s funerals to honor fallen police officers Jason Rivera and Wilbert Mora, who fell victim to gun violence in the line of duty, also seemed to cause tensions to heighten.
Marvin Mayfield, director of organizing at Center for Community Alternatives, said in a statement that more “jailing without a trial is not a solution” and “unchecked judicial discretion” will only serve to worsen racial disparities and undermine people’s constitutional rights.
Katie Schaffer, also at Community Alternatives, added that according to the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice data on gun violence during COVID, since the first bail reforms were enacted in January 2020, most people arrested for gun violence are not out pretrial on another case, and while out pretrial, most are not rearrested for new gun crimes. “It’s quite clear that it is a falsehood that any rise in crime is connected to bail reform,” said Schaffer.
She went on to point out that some situations “have nothing to do with bail reform” and are being spun into the conversation, like in the case where the 16-year-old suspect in last week’s shooting of Officer Kaseem Pennan in the Bronx was released after paying a $250,000 bail. The case is about the Raise the Age problem, where 16 or 17 year olds arrested on a gun charge can go if they provide information. Adams had said that he was outraged that a repeat offender, accused of shooting at a police officer, was walking free on bond.
“For people who are charged with violent felonies the system basically works like it did pre-bail reform. Judges can set money bail, they can remand somebody, they can release you on conditions. That is how that would’ve worked under the old system also,” said Schaffer. “It’s a blatant misunderstanding of the law and what the reforms did.”
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