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Tuesday, September 27, 2022

What Mayor Adams Can Do to Stop Out-of-Control Violence in NYC?

Crime rate has exponentially shot up in the city over the past few months. According to NYPD data, there were 73 shooting incidents in the city from January 1 through January 23, compared with 59 the same period last year. 

By Jay Rover

(Photo by Christopher Roever, CC license)

New York City’s new Mayor Eric Adams found himself in hot seat within hours after taking oath of office. Reason: grappling with a continuous spike in gun violence and attacks at the city’s subway stations.

Just last Friday (January 21), the city lost two young police officers in Harlem while responding to a domestic incident. Officers Wilbert Mora, 27, and Jason Rivera, 22, were shot in the head by Lashawn McNeil, whose mother had called 911 for help to tame her unruly son. The gun used in the crime was stolen from Baltimore years ago. Before dying, Mora’s heart, liver, pancreas and both kidneys were donated to others.

The young heroes death left the city in horror and a somber mood. They did not deserve to die just like many others who fell victims to senseless gun violence across the five boroughs.

The officers death came as the city was still recovering from the shocking death of Michelle Alyssa Go who was pushed to death on rail tracks January 15 by 61 years old homeless man, Martial Simon. The attacker approached Go, 40, from behind while she was waiting for train at Times Square/42nd Street subway station.

Go’s death was continuation of a trend that has seen an increase in pushing assaults on the New York subway system. The spike was especially reported last year despite overall ridership being down. 

According to the New York Police Department, 461 felony assaults were reported on the subway system in 2021, of which 30 involved a person being pushed onto the subway tracks. That’s an increase from 2020, when there were 26 reported subway-pushing incidents.
According to the New York Police Department, 461 felony assaults were reported on the subway system in 2021, of which 30 involved a person being pushed onto the subway tracks. That’s an increase from 2020, when there were 26 reported subway-pushing incidents.

Police have reported five assaults so far this year in which a person was pushed onto the tracks, Edward Riley, an NYPD spokesman, told The Washington Post. NYPD is nation’s largest police force of 40,000 officers.

The disturbing trend of violence continues above and underground. On January 25, a 25-year-old carpenter was found fatally shot in his car after getting into crash and dispute with another driver in the Bronx. Police believe he was shot by a person in the other vehicle, who then fled the scene. A hunt was on as the killer remained at large by January 27.

Crime rate has exponentially shot up in the city over the past few months. According to NYPD data, there were 73 shooting incidents from January 1 through January 23, compared with 59 the same period last year.

A visibly upset Mayor Adams is promising tough action against criminals. The city will “immediately” reinstate a “newer version of modified plainclothes anti-gun unit,” Adams told CNN following the incident. City officials said they were working to take guns off the streets. According to New York Post, the anti-gun unit will be staffed by more than 400 cops.

“The revamped plainclothes units, which will replace the controversial anti-crime squad that was disbanded in 2020, are excepted to roll out in the coming weeks in patrol areas around the city that were hit hardest by the pandemic surge in gun violence,” the Post report added.

Protective Barriers at Subway Stations

MTA says only 128 off 472 subway stations may be suitable for protective barriers and will cost $7 billion. Pakistan Week photo by Jay Rover

The rising rate of crime is creating a sense of insecurity, especially amongst minorities and communities of color, many of whom are laborers and have to use the city’s transit system regularly and often late in the night. The city not only needs to increase the number of officers at all the 472 city stations but also urge the MTA to secure the station platforms by installing protective guard rails.

Subway barriers are in use across the world including the London Underground. The barriers are also in use in Asia with Shanghai, Hong Kong and Tokyo subway systems all employing their usage. The barriers are also in use in Dubai, Singapore, Seoul and Shanghai. Now MTA is reviewing this option for securing the subway platforms again.
Manhattan’s elected officials are taking the lead, urging the MTA to “move as quickly as possible” and begin the testing of the protective barriers. The MTA has been resistant to bring in the barriers maintaining that it would be complicated to implement at many stations.

“The density and crowding of subways here … makes our stations more vulnerable,” Borough President Mark Levine told the New York Post.

“It’s true that we have a huge number of needs and finite resources, but this would amount to a small fraction of the capital budget.”

Levine said the screen doors “must be given the priority they deserve, studied, and funded for installation,” in a letter to MTA Chair Janno Lieber.

“Each year, hundreds of New Yorkers enter subway tracks via accidental fall, trespassing, suicide attempts, and, in rare cases, being pushed. The tragic loss of Michelle Go on January 15th is but the most recent painful example,” the letter stated.

The idea of introducing the screens was last examined in 2019 by the MTA which concluded that the doors would only be able to be installed at 128 of the subway system’s 472 stations at a cost of more than $7 billion.

“There are some physical constraints,” Lieber said during a recent interview. “But we’re studying it again, and we are interested in seeing whether there are opportunities to install it, especially in some of the more, the busier stations where you get a little more crowded.

“This is not just about preventing people from being pushed on the tracks — which is horrific but, thank God, rare. It’s also about preventing people from falling, from dropping their iPhones on the tracks, from suicide attempts. And it will prevent delays, because one of the main causes of delays is track fires.”

Subway barriers are in use across the world including the London Underground. The barriers are also in use in Asia with Shanghai, Hong Kong and Tokyo subway systems all employing their usage. The barriers are also in use in Dubai, Singapore, Seoul and Shanghai.

High Hopes from Mayor Adams

Too many innocent people are losing lives and creating a sense of insecurity amongst not just the citizens but also tourists.

If the crime rate is not brought down, it could deter the already shrinking tourist traffic to the city. A decrease in tourist traffic will impact the already struggling small businesses even more. New York has one of the highest cost of doing business in the nation. A loss of business could mean more businesses shuttering down.

“My business is down by more than 80%,” says Shah, who sells coffee in the fashion district near Times Square. He says he is struggling even to meet his own cost of business. He is not sure for how long he can sustain his small enterprise.

In such a situation, if the crime rate remains high, food vendors and small businesses will receive a fatal blow. It may be the good luck of NYC that Mayor Adams is a former cop, with a proven track record of delivering on his promises.

“I truly hope that Mayor Adams will do all that is needed, including providing me with sufficient protection, and save my livelihood,” Shah said when asked what he expected from the mayor.

While Mayor Adams settles down in his new job, New Yorkers are looking at him for help. And given his track record, he will do all he can to keep New Yorkers safe. “I wish him good luck in making the city safe,” Shah said.

What help can the Mayor seek during Biden’s visit

While the Mayor is expected to seek from the president all the federal help he needs to make New York streets and subways safer, it may not be out of place to demand inclusion of building the protective barriers at subway stations, wherever feasible, in the national infrastructure plan. It will be the best use of securing the nation’s largest subway system for its operators and users.
The gun violence is reverberating in Washington DC as well. Reports emerge on January 26 that President Joe Biden plans to visit the city and discuss with Mayor Adams ways to control gun violence.

A spokesperson for the mayor’s office confirmed Biden’s visit, slated for February 3rd. It will be the first time Biden will meet Adams as mayor. The two met last July to discuss the very same topic, before the mayor took office.

“Public safety is my administration’s highest priority, and we welcome the opportunity to display to President Biden how federal and local governments can coordinate and support each other in this fight to keep New Yorkers safe,” Adams said in a statement.

Adams, a centrist Democrat, has been urging the Biden Administration to provide more support in fighting crime in the city. He released a 15-page plan that outlined steps for reducing violent crimes.

While the Mayor is expected to seek from the president all the federal help he needs to make New York streets and subways safer, it may not be out of place to demand inclusion of building the protective barriers at subway stations, wherever feasible, in the national infrastructure plan. It will be the best use of securing the nation’s largest subway system for its operators and users.

The city residents also need to be more vigilant and report presence of guns in their environs. Thee scourge will be ended through join efforts of the law enforcement and responsible citizenry.

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