Mayor Eric Adams didn’t wait for Christmas to celebrate, highlighting the city’s public safety wins throughout 2022 last Thursday during a City Hall press conference. He named gun violence reductions, subway police rollouts and increased fire safety as a few key issues his administration addressed over the first year in office.
“Murders and shootings are down by double digits this year, and, more recently, major crimes are down both on the streets and in the subways,” said Adams. “We’re also making great strides through all of our different public safety agencies. We knew these changes wouldn’t happen overnight, but, every day, we continue to dam the many rivers that feed the sea of violence in our city with investments in both intervention and prevention. We’ll continue to engage New Yorkers at every level on the issue of public safety and make sure 2023 is even safer.”
“We call it the ‘public safety ecosystem’—all of the city’s public safety agencies are working together as one toward our common goal of keeping New York City safe,” said Deputy Mayor for Public Safety Philip Banks III. “Each piece of that puzzle is critical to the health of the entire system. While there is certainly more work to be done, the results are clear that this strategy is working. Making sure the public feels safe and is safe remains our top priority, and we will continue to tackle public safety challenges head-on in a comprehensive way to protect New Yorkers.”
Shootings are down from last year by roughly 17%, which Adams credits to the 6,985 guns seized by police in 2022. Gun arrests are at a 27-year high. And there are 302 fewer shooting victims this year. Adams also highlighted the controversial Neighborhood Safety Teams, which employ unmarked vehicles and plain clothes units to address illegal gun possession and other “violent major crimes.” The program tackled neighborhoods traditionally plagued with gun violence using “precision policing” and promised to skip stop-and-frisk practices traditionally associated with such initiatives to focus on just getting illegal firearms off the street. In 2022, there was a 73% increase in ghost gun seizures compared to last year.
Shortly after Adams took office, the Bronx apartment fire killed 17 people, including eight children. Closing the year, the FDNY trained more than 258,000 New Yorkers this year in fire safety. The department also installed and distributed over 13,000 smoke alarms throughout the city. Prosecutions for fire safety violations are down 98% this year, as the current administration instead pursues civil charges, which are processed faster, reported the New York Times in October.
Adams also flexed his often controversial handling of subway and transit safety, mentioning 27,200 people removed from trains for violations and 8,600 were arrested. He also touched on a 13% drop in November 2022 transit crime compared to last year after three New Yorkers were fatally stabbed within 10 days the previous month. As far back as February, Adams pushed to remove unhoused New Yorkers from subways, compounded with a recent directive to police and emergency services to involuntarily commit those with severe mental illness. According to the city, subway ridership currently peaks daily at around 3.9 million straphangers.
The streets are also safer in a literal sense, with pedestrian fatalities down 8% and cyclist fatalities down 15%. Adams credits a state-partnered 24/7 camera program reducing speeding around recorded areas by 25%. He adds the city will continue to work with Albany to increase penalties for reckless drivers, especially those who kill someone behind-the-wheel. Showing the now famous graphic of bulldozed ATVs, Adams said dirt bikes were a major concern for New York City drivers.
Additionally, crackdown on illegal license plates were mentioned as a crime deterrent as Adams attributed their use to “feeding the sea of violence.” But the city won’t outsource help—Brooklyn safe-streets advocate Adam White was arrested and detained last month for removing plastic used to illegally obstruct a license plate.
And surprisingly, corrections were a point of pride for Adams despite 19 deaths in or shortly after New York City jail custody this year. He says while there’s no official tally, he’s “likely” visited Rikers Island more than any other mayor in the city’s history. Given a reported, rampant sick leave issue in the embattled jail, the administration highlighted a 70% reduction in Department of Corrections uniformed staff calling in sick from this past January.
But there’s still work to be done, as shown by the Christmas week violence. Most notably, Roland Codrington, 35, was arrested and charged for an alleged pair of separate slashing murders. One victim, 60-year-old pediatrician Bruce Maurice Henry, was found dead in Central Harlem’s Marcus Garvey Park. This past Monday, a 64-year-old woman was found shot dead in Inwood.
And while murder is down, year-to-date from Dec. 18, major index crime is up by 23.5%, including increases in every other category. There were 10,000 more grand larcenies this year compared to 2021, a 27.8% rise.
Still, Adams and friends maintain the city is trending in the right direction, if the current decreases in every major index crime category besides grand larceny auto this past month are anything to go by. The mayor certainly is confident.
“New York remains the safest big city in America,” said Adams. “We have to be clear on that. We are still the safest big city in America, and in 2023, we’re going to push this city to be safer.”
Tandy Lau is a Report for America corps member and writes about public safety for the Amsterdam News. Your donation to match our RFA grant helps keep him writing stories like this one; please consider making a tax-deductible gift of any amount today by visiting https://bit.ly/amnews1.