From The New York Times, unlikeable borrow, this is The Daily. Today, in major cities across the U.S., gun violence is surging just as activists are calling to defund the police.
My colleague Ashley Salha on how that is playing out in New York City. It's Monday, August 24th.
Actually, what has been the story of crime in New York City up until this moment, so around the 70s and 80s, we saw crime start to really rise in New York and we went through the drug war, the crack epidemic. And in the 90s, we saw crime sort of peak all across the United States, but especially in New York. And there were thousands of murders each year and even more shootings. But as the 90s were on and into the 2000s, the crime rate in this country is continuing to fall.
The FBI reported today that violent crime fell five and a half percent last year. That's three years in a row now.
We saw crime decline and there was a strong decline for years to the point where we were having just hundreds of murders a year.
The NYPD says there have been two hundred and eighty nine murders this year. That's down from a peak of more than twenty two hundred in 1990.
Crime in New York City dropping yet again, this time to levels not seen since Harry Truman was president.
Police admit it's probably the worst kept secret in the city, that New York is now the safest big city in America.
And the question was, when was New York going to reach bottom?
Breaking news on this Sunday night. Crime is up across the city. That's according to the latest numbers released by the NYPD this hour. The NYPD now having to adapt to a noticeable rise in crime since the beginning of the year.
At the beginning of the year, we started to see crime rise over several categories. Then in June, we see it really take off.
It has been a violent weekend in New York City.
The NYPD investigating a spree of shootings on this first official weekend of summer.
More than a dozen people were shot between Friday night and Saturday morning.
And in July, the trend seems to just accelerate. Nine victims fatally shot tonight across four boroughs.
Deadly shootings started just before 1:00 this morning in Brooklyn and continued throughout the day in Manhattan, the Bronx and Staten Island, so that by the end of the month, we had more shootings this year than all of last year. And we still have five months to go.
I guess we should acknowledge, actually, that there is a siren behind you, which has nothing to do with this conversation is just what it means to live in New York.
Yeah, I'm five blocks from a hospital, so it's part of the soundtrack of my everyday life.
So at this point, there are meaningfully more shootings and meaningfully more murders. So actually, how should we think about the causes of this? What exactly is going on here? I think for a lot of people, the instinct might be to think that this is somehow related to this moment in American policing, this forceful rejection of how policing has occurred, the protests against it, and the response of police to those protests.
I mean, sure, it's easy to think that because it's right in front of us. It almost seems obvious, but it's really much more complex. And there are really three big theories about what's happening.
The one that has the most consensus around it is that the pandemic is exacerbating longstanding problems of gun violence and particularly unemployment. There are a lot of people with no jobs and nothing to do. People are sinking deeper into poverty, which creates a greater desperation. And there's also a lot of illegal guns in New York City. And that's a really combustible situation.
What do you mean? How does that has that work? What we've long known in New York City is that a small number of people are responsible for the vast majority of the violence.
And those are people who are largely in gangs and crews, particularly in public housing. And those groups compete in normal times. Some gangs sell drugs and they have turf that they cover. But when you have a pandemic hit that causes lots of unemployment, there's less people buying drugs. And so there's less of a market. And when you have less of a market that increases the competition. So then you have these violent gangs fighting more fiercely for less of a pie.
OK, so under this theory that the pandemic is exacerbating existing problems in the city, that explains the pandemics effect on the people doing the shooting, what about the effect the pandemic had on the police?
Immediately what we saw was officers being removed from duty because of the virus. We had thousands of officers calling out sick every day. And at the height of the pandemic, almost 20 percent of the force was out sick because of the virus.
Wow. And that had two effects on the street officers. Their presence is a deterrent to violence. You're probably not going to shoot somebody with a. Officer standing right there watching you, right, but if there's no officer, there's no real deterrent, and then after a shooting occurs, there's an investigation and the police department detectives work in these squad rooms where they're very close together. They're practically breathing on top of each other. So if one of them gets sick, then there's a chance that everybody's sick.
So they all go out sick and investigations come to a halt. Well, that's a problem because one shooting often leads to another shooting, whether that person continues shooting rivals or whether someone is now looking for him. And it's almost always him. So when you have cases that can't be investigated, that means that the ones that can be solved aren't being solved and that that pattern of violence continues uninterrupted. All right.
That's the first theory that the pandemic is both fueling more shootings and sidelining the officers who could potentially prevent those shootings, actually.
What is the second theory of why crime is going up in New York?
Well, you touched on this earlier. We had massive protests broke out in May after the death of George Floyd in police custody in Minneapolis, just as police were coming back from the virus that required resources.
We saw in those early days, the police deployed about 4000 officers to the protest, but there was rampant looting in some parts of Manhattan, in Brooklyn, and they had to double the force to about eight thousand police officers. So that meant that officers have to come from somewhere and they typically come from the streets and some of them come from detective squads. So that means that fewer police resources are involved in investigating shootings and there are less officers in the neighborhoods where shootings are more likely to occur.
And how do the protests themselves play into this theory? Amid these protests, you start to see a political response to the demands to reform the police within the last hour.
I just chaired a meeting of senior executives of the police department, and one of those changes was to disband the anti crime units.
It is regarding the deployment of precinct level and PSA level anticrime units.
These are the plainclothes units that operate on traditional anti crime and explain what an anti crime unit is and that crime officers are the main group responsible for getting guns off the street in New York City. And they confiscated thousands of guns each year.
The men and women of the police department were doing what I and others before me asked.
They have done an exceptional job, but they were controversial and they became known as the jump out boys, because what they would do sometimes is stop in their cars, get out and throw somebody up against the wall, search them and leave without any explanation or finding any weapons. And that led to a lot of tension between police and communities of color.
And it is it is lost on no one, certainly not the people that live in the neighborhoods that we serve that endure being stopped or their children being stopped.
But what was also problematic about anticrime is that they were involved in a lot of police involved shootings.
And why exactly is that?
Because anticrime officers are trained to look for guns. They're looking for violent people. And so in expecting violence, they are prepared to use it. And the calculation was that New York City could not afford to have a police involved shooting at that time. So the commissioner had been thinking about this, about disbanding anti crime for a long time.
Effective immediately, we will be transitioning those units, roughly 600 people citywide into a variety of assignments, including detective bureau, neighborhood policing and other assignments.
And finally, he made the decision in June to pull the plug.
It's a big move when you look at culturally how we police the city and what we always struggle with, I believe, as police executives is not keeping crime down. It's keeping crime down and keeping the community working with us. And I think those two things at times have been at odds. We can do it better, we can do it smarter, and we will.
Is there a feeling, actually, that disbanding this unit at a time when gun violence is going up has contributed to the increase in shootings and then murders? There's certainly a sense that removing anticrime officers from the street and publicly announcing that has what people who carry guns and who are also involved in violence know that there's no one there to stop them. And one of the things that we've seen in. Shootings and murders have risen is that gun arrests have declined, and since the anticrime unit was disbanded, shootings have only continue to go up.
And under this second theory, that's centered around the role of these protests in the rise of crime. What role does the actual frustration at the heart of these protests play here, the mistrust on the side of the protesters toward the police?
Well, there's always been a level of mistrust of police in communities that experience higher levels of crime because they have experienced aggressive policing in the past. But what happens when you have a death like George Foy that's captured on video where he's saying the last words of Eric Garner, who died here six years ago, is that those old wounds are scratched again and they reopened.
And that mistrust for a while is there again, you know, that can manifest as people not calling the police or not seeking them out to help with the problem.
And one of the things that the police have said is that they had people who were cooperating with shooting and murder investigations before the protests who have now backed out because they don't want to have anything to do with the police. And that makes it harder to solve crimes that might lead to future ones like shootings.
And what about the police side of this equation, this message of the protests? How are officers in New York City from your reporting, internalizing this message and reacting to it and perhaps changing their behavior and their approach in response in ways that might be fueling all of this?
So when you talk to the cops or even if you listen to the things that top brass say, what cops take from the protests and the political response is that their work isn't valuable and nobody supports them. The city doesn't have their backs. And so what we're seeing is that in moments where police might have been proactive in making an arrest or in intervening in a situation that could spiral into violence, they're actually standing down. One of the examples that people often give to me is that they're these barbecues and street parties that go late into the night.
Usually the police would break them up, but instead they're going on well past midnight to 4:00, sometimes even 6:00 a.m. and the police aren't doing anything about it. And what we've seen in some instances is that those parties often lead to a shooting and one or more people get hurt or killed.
And the cops you're talking to are telling you, yeah, we're hesitant to engage with these kinds of situations right now.
Yeah. I mean, think about it from the perspective of the cop on the street who he's thinking, you know, well, the public doesn't want me here. And, you know, if I step into a situation where I think someone might have a gun or this thing could get out of control, then I could be arrested. And then that's the end of my career and I can't support my family. That's that's a very scary thing for cops.
But I'm curious, Ashleigh, if in your reporting, you get the sense that on some level this may be police saying to the protesters, OK, so you're so disgusted by us and you are making all these demands for budget cuts to fund the police. Do you want to know what the world would look like if you get your vision implemented? Well, here will give you a taste of it. We will not go in and break up the barbecue.
We will not make the arrest. In other words, is there some form of kind of protest going on by the police of the work that they typically do in order to say to the public, this is what it would be like if you get what protesters out on the streets are demanding?
It certainly seems that in some way the cops are responding in a way that almost seems flippant. You want to abolish the police, you want to defund the police while this is what it looks like when you don't have the police. And there's a prevailing sense that cops are stepping back to prove that they are, in fact, necessary.
It doesn't seem like there's a ton of debate around these two theories that you have laid out here, the role of the pandemic and the role of the protests against police.
Do I have that right? You know, there's a lot of agreement on the role of the pandemic and also the effect of the protests. But the third. Theory is where there's a lot of debate and it's heated. We'll be right back. At this moment, Salesforce is working with businesses all over the world to adapt to all the changes that are happening there, helping people like me and me and me manage through this crisis, return to work safely and grow my business again, visit worktop to get help for your business.
If we all work together, we can do this. This is Monica Drak, assistant managing editor at The New York Times. We know that you have a lot of questions right now. You might be wondering if your city is reopening, how to find child care or where you can safely travel. You're hearing about presidential campaigns, protests against police violence and the impact of climate change on how we live in there's work. How do you do your job well remotely or how do you stay safe if you can't when there's time?
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So the theory theory is one advanced almost exclusively by the New York Police Department itself. And that theory is that a couple of measures taken by both the city and the state over the last few years, first with criminal justice reform and then through some of the steps they've taken to slow the spread of the coronavirus, that those measures are contributing to putting people back out onto the street who have not just engaged in criminal activity, but who are also violent only who can break those two things down, maybe start with the criminal justice reforms.
What's the theory there?
So last year, the New York state legislature passed a bail law.
The old system was too reliant on cash that allowed more people to get out of jail while their cases were winding through the courts.
The old system was, if you were rich and you could pay bail, you get out. If you're poor and you couldn't pay bail, you went to jail.
And in most cases, people who are assigned bail do make bail, but it takes some time. And being in jail for a day, two days a week, a month can have serious consequences for people's lives. They lose their job, they lose their housing, and they might even lose custody of their kids. And that's all before the case is resolved. So the bail law was intended to fix this problem that was largely affecting poor people in communities of color.
It was never supposed to be about money. The whole justice system was not supposed to be about who's rich, who's poor.
But what the theory is now, at least from the police department, is that that law put more people onto the streets who are not only criminal, but are also violent. The police commissioner, Dermot Shea, he's gone after this bail law ever since he became commissioner and predicted that it would cause a rise in crime.
When you have individuals that are standing before a judge and immediately being released and essentially everyone in the room knows that this person is a danger to the community. I think we need to look at the system and make sure that judges can make common sense decisions.
So because that law was passed last year and is being implemented now, the theory here is that a criminal justice reform with a with a good intention. Right. Of like not making people buy their freedom before their charges even get processed by the court may result in more people who might be violent, who might do something like get involved in a shooting, being out of prison and on the street.
That's exactly right. And the second part of this theory is that the measures undertaken to slow the spread of the coronavirus in the city's jails and in the state prison system have also put more violent people onto the streets.
Well, everyone, I want to talk about what we all will be doing and we'll need to do to make these adjustments and to deal with our new reality.
We're seeing milestones in the growth of this disease that are just absolutely staggering things we could not have.
So that's the coronavirus from spreading. The city started thinking about who it could release from its jails.
In the course of this evening, I will be given results of an effort by the Department of Corrections and the NYPD and our mayor's Office for Criminal Justice to review a list of approximately 200 inmates for potential release. Those individuals will be released tomorrow. We hope to make decisions on them very quickly.
But this process and so the argument is that some of these people who have been coming back onto the streets are involved in the shootings and some of the murders that we are seeing on the streets today.
Is there evidence to support that? Because my sense is that the bail reform deliberately avoided letting violent people or allegedly violent people out. And the covid-19 mitigation plans also attempted to avoid letting out violent people. So is there any evidence that people charged with violent crimes were let out through either of those measures?
Not really. The problem with this theory is that the NYPD own data don't really support what they say.
At first, the NYPD, they went out and they said, OK, this uptick in crime is happening because of bail reform and sometimes the data contradict them.
This is something that's been noted by critics, including Alexandria Cosio Cortez, who is, of course, a congresswoman representing part of the Bronx and. Means they just released data a couple of weeks ago that showed that out of almost all the people who have committed crimes, et cetera, almost none have been rereleased due to the bail reform. So why is this uptick in crime happening? Well, do we think this has to do with the fact that there's record unemployment in the United States right now?
The fact that people are at a level of economic desperation that we have not seen since the Great Recession, the police department's data doesn't establish a connection between the people who are out there shooting other people and the people who are getting out on bail. There are some examples of people who have been released who have been rearrested on a gun charge, but the police haven't provided any evidence linking them to shootings and any kind of substantial way. It's mostly been like an anecdote here, there, but no consistent pattern.
And what about the release of people from places like Rikers Island, that famous New York City prison because of covid-19? Has there been any evidence that that has led to the surge in shootings and murders?
So this theory plays out similar to the one about bail. And once again, we have a situation where the NYPD own data does not show a strong connection between those people and the violence the police are trying to pin on them.
So actually, you have laid out these three theories. And the first two seem like there's a sort of interplay between them, that people are increasingly desperate out of work because of the pandemic. And with cops out sick, the shootings were escalating even further. And then the protests started and people were reluctant to engage with the police at the same time that the police were reluctant to engage with the community.
And I'm mindful that one of the things that seems to support these first two theories is that all these forces were also at play in the other cities around America, where we have seen rising unrest in recent months, other cities with historic issues between police and communities of color, Chicago, Atlanta, Seattle, whereas bail reform and prisoner release, those are factors that are specific to New York.
But even so, I have to think that regardless of the explanation for the rise in crime, that it gives critics of the defund movement an argument for opposing that move. They can make the case that a moment where shootings and murders are up is a pretty bad time to cut funding for traditional policing. So do you feel like the fact that these numbers are going up is going to make the case for defunding the police in New York City harder? Is that what you're seeing?
On the one hand, yes, because no politician wants to be the person who takes money away from the police department while more people are getting shot and more people are dying and dying from violence, that is preventable. The police presence is supposed to deter violence and you're taking money away from them. They don't show up. And so the violence continues. And so you're going to take the blame for that. It makes the moment inopportune. But at the same time, people point to the police failure to get a handle on shootings and murders that have been rising now for three months straight.
And people see that as evidence of the failure of police to do their most basic job, which is to keep people safe. So they say let's cut their funding and try something else.
So this moment could actually strengthen the case for defunding the police?
Yeah, that's it. Because it's not keeping people safe and communities of color at this moment in New York City.
But actually, if you believe that the forces behind the rising crime rate are connected to the pandemic and that situation will resolve itself in the next couple of months or year and police could start doing their jobs again as they did before. Wouldn't that be enough to keep shootings historically low like they were over the past few years or something now changed that will make it difficult to go back to before?
I wish I could go back in the past and kind of do some tweaks to tell you what it might look like if things had played out differently, if there had been no pandemic and no protests. But I can't what I can tell you is that even before these events, the police recognize that there was a really big impediment to fighting crime and that was a broken trust between the police and particularly communities of color. That was decades in the making. Commissioner Shea, in disbanding anticrime, acknowledge that although they were effective in getting guns off the streets, their tactics were sometimes harmful.
And that was counterproductive to building the kind of public confidence the police need to have people not only reporting crimes, because, remember, not all crimes are reported to the police and many people.
Don't report crime at all. It also keeps people from helping the police to solve crimes, repairing that trust was paramount before the pandemic, before any protests, and it's only gotten worse. And so it's not going to be an easy fix.
So what you're saying is that the crime rate, the number of shootings and the number of murders reported has not necessarily been a great reflection of whether policing in New York is actually working. In fact, it might have been a pretty misleading number to begin with because of these deeper root issues that have been there. During that period of, quote unquote, low crime, so going back to before. Is a kind of flawed way of thinking about this. That's right, in this moment, we see these wild cards, the pandemic and the protests, exacerbating the factors that already fueled gun violence.
But even before those came into play and up till now, we're talking about a very small group of people who carry guns. And the research shows that they do so because they feel caught between two worlds that make them feel unsafe. One is the violence in their communities, whether it be conflicts between gangs with rivalries or crews in neighboring housing projects that have beefs, they also feel unsafe around the police. They feel at any moment they could be targeted, that they could be a George FOID or an Eric Garner.
So there's no one in their lives who they feel can protect them until they pick up a gun to do it for themselves.
So pandemic or no pandemic protests or no protests. Ultimately, it's the problems in their lives that need to be addressed. And what the experts will tell you is that policing, even with reforms, is just one part of a very large puzzle, actually. Thank you very much for your call. Appreciate it. Thanks for having me. We'll be right back. Every season, a behind the scenes pulls back the curtain on your favorite Netflix series, and this time it's diving into the second season of the Umbrella Academy over five episodes.
This podcast details how the show gets made from graphic novel to script to screen, and contains interviews with Gerard Way, the show's cast and spoilers. So make sure you watch the series on Netflix before pressing play on this podcast. Behind the scenes Umbrella Academy is out now. Subscribe wherever you listen to podcasts. Here's what else you need to know today as we head into the election season. I want to assure this committee and the American public that the Postal Service is fully capable and committed to delivering the nation's election mail securely and on time.
In testimony before Congress, the postmaster general, Lewis Dejoy, said he was confident that the U.S. Postal Service could handle a major surge in voting by mail this fall, despite the cost cutting plans that he has put in place, which have slowed delivery across the country.
We delivered 433 million pieces of mail a day, so 150 million ballots, 160 million ballots over the course of a week is a very, very small amount adequate capacity.
Nevertheless, over the weekend, the House of Representatives passed emergency legislation that would block the joys changes and inject 25 billion dollars into the Postal Service before the election.
This is not a partisan issue. It makes absolutely no sense to implement these dramatic changes in the middle of a pandemic less than three months before the November elections. The American people do not want anyone messing with the post office.
And the Republican National Convention will begin tonight with a heavy emphasis on the president, his family and his White House staff. The Times reports that in an unusual decision, Trump is scheduled to speak on all four nights and that no previous Republican presidents or presidential nominees will appear at the convention.
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