New York City’s new mayor on Monday vowed to end the scourge of gun violence plaguing his city – reviving a disbanded police unit, injecting cash into community projects, and vowing to dismantle weapons trafficking networks.
On Friday a 22-year-old police officer, Jason Rivera, was shot and killed while responding to a domestic violence call in Harlem – the first officer killed by gunfire in the city since July 2017.
Eric Adams, a former captain in the NYPD, who took over as mayor on January 1, said that Rivera’s murder should act as a catalyst.
‘We are going to do a lot more than pray. We are going to turn our pain into purpose,’ he said in a City Hall press conference.
‘We will not surrender our city to the violent few.’
There have been 73 shootings so far this year in the city – an increase of 23.7 percent on last year. A total of 82 people have been shot, up from 67 in the first three weeks of 2021.
Eric Adams, the mayor of New York, on Monday unveiled his plan to combat soaring gun crime
Police recovered an illegal Glock 45 at the scene, equipped with a ‘high capacity magazine.’ The drum magazine gives a gun 40 additional rounds, allowing the user to fire a total of 50 rounds
Adams, 61, presented what he called ‘The Blueprint to End Gun Violence’ – a 15 page plan to tackle violence on the streets, through the courts, and in the state and federal legislature.
‘New York City has been tested to its core in the first month of 2022,’ the intro states.
‘These weeks have been among the most violent in recent memory, most of it caused by a crisis of gun violence that continues to plague our communities.’
Adams said the NYPD would bring back plainclothes police squads, termed the Anti-Crime Units, which his predecessor Bill de Blasio disbanded in July 2020 amid anger at policing sparked by the murder of George Floyd.
The units will now be known as Neighborhood Safety Teams, and will launch in the next three weeks, targeting 30 precincts where the mayor said 80 percent of violence takes place.
De Blasio disbanded the unit amid criticism of their tactics: Adams, in a bid to win over critics, said the plainclothes officers would be somehow identifiable to the public as police officers, and be equipped with body cameras.
‘The City will hold listening tours in key neighborhoods, truly understanding the challenges of past Anti-Crime Units and providing additional training, supervision, analytics, and risk monitoring to ensure these enhanced teams work with communities
He also promised an expansion of the Gun Violence Suppression Division, the NYPD unit that goes after gun traffickers, and more police patrolling the streets, with fewer assigned to desk duties.
‘We will have boots on the ground on every block in this city,’ the mayor said.
Adams promised a range of new policies, including more police on the streets and beefed-up community policing
Adams, 61, also called on state and federal legislators to do more to target gun trafficking
Adams said he would crackdown on the ‘iron pipeline’, allocating more resources to teams performing spot checks to prevent guns being brought in to the city.
He promised to create programs for young people over the summer, with training and ‘youth engagement’, to win over vulnerable youths and stop them falling in to a life of crime.
He also promised more federal funds for mental health care and hospital beds for those too ill to be on the streets.
‘We will not surrender our city to the violent few,’ Adams said.
Adams has previously expressed concerns about changes to the bail law that were recently enacted, and he called on state lawmakers to make a number of changes, including to New York’s bail law and to a law that altered how the state handles teenage defendants.
‘I want to be clear: This is not just a plan for the future — it is a plan for right now,’ the mayor said. ‘Gun violence is a public health crisis. There is no time to wait.’
The new Manhattan district attorney, Alvin Bragg, has been criticized for declaring that he would not prosecute certain crimes, but on Monday, in response to the concerns, he said he would prosecute gun crimes, including gun possession, aggressively.
‘If you’re walking around Manhattan with a gun, you’re going to be prosecuted and we’re going to hold you accountable in what I would say is the traditional sense,’ Bragg said.
The Police Benevolent Association (PBA), the largest police union in the city, welcomed Adams’ plan.
‘Mayor Adams is absolutely right that the message on the streets is that there are no consequences for carrying and using illegal guns,’ the union said in a statement.
‘We saw the tragic results of that message again on Friday night.
‘It has to change immediately, because we have already lost more than we can bear.’
Jason Rivera (left), 22, who joined the NYPD a little over a year ago, was shot and killed on Friday night and his partner Wilbert Mora, who signed up in 2018, remains in a critical condition
Police officers are pictured on the scene in Harlem, where two officers were shot and one killed
The shooting is the first death of a members of the NYPD since Eric Adams took over as mayor on January 1
Adams is seen on Friday night addressing the press and crowds of police officers at Harlem hospital
Yet Adams’s plan, in particular his revival of the Anti-Crime Units, have not been universally welcomed.
‘We can build safer, stronger communities without relying on strategies which in the past have inflicted lasting harm,’ said Jumaane Williams, the city’s public advocate.
‘This is not a time to lose the lessons that we have learned.’
Lashawn J. McNeil, 47, opened fire on the officers, and was shot in the arm and head. His death was announced on Monday. He was out on probation at the time following a New York narcotics arrest, and had four previous arrests in two other states
Rivera’s funeral will be held on Friday in St Patrick’s Cathedral, with the mayor in attendance and the PBA calling on New Yorkers to attend en masse.
The gunman who killed Rivera and seriously injured his colleague Wilbert Mora, Lashawn McNeil, 47, died of his injuries on Monday.
McNeil ambushed the officers called by his mother, and opened fire with an illegally modified Glock .45-caliber handgun.
The convicted felon was on probation for a 2003 drug conviction when he shot the officers, NYPD Chief of Detectives James Essig said at a press conference Saturday.
McNeil also had several arrests in other states, including a 1998 arrest for gun possession — which was later dismissed — and a 2002 Pennsylvania arrest for assaulting a police officer.
He had two other arrests in Pennsylvania the following year for felony and misdemeanor drug charges, records show.
The gun used to shoot the two NYPD officers, which was stolen from Baltimore in 2017, was illegally equipped with a high-capacity magazine that holds an additional 40 rounds.
Five police officers have been shot so far this year.