Rafael A. Mangual, a senior fellow and deputy director of legal policy at the Manhattan Institute, says that the sharp rise in homicides and shootings has been the city’s second-biggest challenge, but the way forward is less clear, and the prospects for a better 2021 are much dimmer. Through Dec. 27, New York City’s 447 homicides and 1,518 shootings represent respective year-to-date increases of 41 percent and 97.4 percent from 2019’s numbers. New Yorkers haven’t seen a year-over-year spike in homicides anywhere near this large since the early 1970s, he writes in an op-ed for The New York Times.
To address the issue, in Brooklyn, which has borne the brunt of the city’s rise in shootings, District Attorney Eric Gonzalez has introduced policies that functionally decriminalize a host of offenses, as well as expanded diversion programs and adopted a policy of supporting parole bids. The spike in shootings and homicides does not seem to have slowed the city’s push for decarceration and de-policing, putting the lie to the widely held belief that crime can be easily capitalized on to stunt reform efforts. After Floyd’s death, the City Council passed a $1 billion cut to the NYPD. budget, resulting in the cancellation of an academy class, which is likely to exacerbate the impact of the force-reduction driven by the sharp rise in retirements last year. The Council also criminalized certain grappling tactics if performed by police during the course of an arrest, and the Police Department disbanded its plainclothes anti-crime teams. This is on top of the police reform bills signed into law by Governor Cuomo in June. This reality implies real political limits as to what can be done in the near term to address the rise in serious violence.