Why Eric Adams Faces A Far More Difficult Test Than Previous Mayors In The War On Crime

The Brooklyn district attorney, Eric Gonzalez, has attributed 70% of guns seized to coming from southern states that have looser gun buying restrictions. However, some law enforcement members have argued that illegal guns circulate for years in the city and that crackdowns on smuggling have limited impact.

Although the recent spike has alarmed experts, the current level of crime in New York City is nowhere near the highpoint of 1990, when there were more than 2,200 murders. Citywide, there 488 murders last year.

Mayors have generally responded to crime by increasing police. During the early 1990s, David Dinkins, the city’s first Black mayor, secured additional funding from Albany to increase the city’s NYPD ranks to reduce crime. The move was later credited with initiating a decline in the crime rate. Crime levels plummeted under Giuliani, a two-term mayor who oversaw a crackdown on low-level offenses as well as the development of CompStat, a database system that tracks crime statistics trends.

But many people have since recognized that the drive to bring crime down had negative consequences, including a high number of people who were sent to jail for misdemeanors and the excessive use of stop-and-frisk tactics that revealed racist policing patterns. Stop-and-frisk exploded under Giuliani’s successor, Michael Bloomberg, creating a chasm that further divided minority communities and the NYPD.

Mayor Bill de Blasio, who ran on a campaign of ending stop and frisk, saw crime fall to historic lows under his tenure, although it will also be remembered for the fatal police chokehold that killed Eric Garner, who officers were trying to arrest for selling loose cigarettes.

Richard Aborn, president of the Citizens Crime Commission of New York City, said Adams needs to strike a balance. “We need to remain very focused on driving down violent crime,” he said. "We also need to understand that while we need to respond to nonviolent crime misdemeanors, accountability does not have to equal jail, but a lack of accountability can equal lawlessness.”

Aborn said he believes Adams, who he has known for more than two decades, can bridge two different eras of policing. While the mayor needs to get ahead of the crisis, he said, “I would rather see a well-thought-out plan, than a plan rushed to fill the moment.”

Adams has so far not indicated that he will expand the city’s police force, which has an operating budget of $5.4 billion. He has instead said he wants to make the NYPD more efficient as well as take a holistic approach to crime that involves investment in communities of color. He’s also leaning on the federal government for support, lobbying for more gun restrictions and urging Congress to pass the now stalled $1.75 trillion Build Back Better Act. If passed, funds would be earmarked to states with cure violence programs, such as those found in New York City.

At the same time, the mayor has embraced approaches unpopular with progressive Democrats. He has said stop-and-frisk, which he opposed as a police officer, can be fairly implemented with better training and says he will reinstate a controversial plainclothes unit targeting gun violence. He has also called on state lawmakers to revisit bail reform, which eliminates bail for most misdemeanors and nonviolent felonies.

Adams has insisted that he wants to balance public safety with justice.

“I’m the right person for this moment,” he told reporters at a news briefing Saturday.

He later attended another vigil outside Manhattan’s 32nd Precinct for the fallen officer, Jason Rivera, a 22-year-old Inwood native, and his critically injured partner, Wilbert Mora.