Eric Adams can’t stop talking about crime. There are risks to this.
Murders and shootings are down in New York this year. But you might not know that if you listen to the city’s mayor, Eric Adams.
In May, Mr. Adams said he had “never witnessed a crime at this level” even though there were 488 murders in the city last year compared to 2,262 in 1990 when he was a transit police officer. Months earlier, he had told reporters that he “didn’t feel safe” on the subway.
Mr. Adams frequently shows up at crime scenes, using his mayor’s pulpit to point out the large presence of guns on city streets and to mourn with loved ones of victims.
He even called 911 at least twice while he was mayor — the first time on his first full day on the job, to report a potential “ongoing assault.” (No arrests were made.)
Mr Adams ran for mayor promising he would curb a spike in violence in the age of the pandemic. But while its consistent focus on shootings and visits to active crime scenes has garnered media attention, they may also contribute to the perception that the city is unsafe: A survey from last month found that three-quarters of New Yorkers were “somewhat or very worried” about being the victim of a violent crime.
His fixation on crime has also complicated the other major theme of his first year in office: guiding the city’s economic recovery from the pandemic.
Mr Adams has been a strong supporter of getting workers back to city offices and has urged tourists to return – a campaign made more difficult by his portrayals of New York as a lawless city where criminals and guns wander unchecked.
Kathryn Wylde, president of the Partnership for New York City, an influential business group, said the mayor’s message might seem inconsistent, but he was right to focus on public safety.
“The mayor’s message reflects what most New Yorkers feel, which is that we are worried about safety, but we are confident our city will bounce back,” she said.
The new administration of New York City Mayor Eric Adams
Fabien Levy, a spokesman for the mayor, said in a statement that crime was far from historic levels, but New Yorkers “deserve to know the facts.”
“Because of our efforts in these first six months, homicides and shootings were down double digits last month,” he said, “but we’re being honest with New Yorkers about the work we’ve done. more needs to be done and the changes that still need to be made at all levels of government – from district attorneys and judges to state and federal legislators.
Mr. Adams has lived in the city his entire life, spending 22 years as a police officer, leading a group called “100 Blacks in Law Enforcement Who Care” and serving as a state senator and then president of the borough of Brooklyn. During this time, he was known for his unorthodox and off-the-cuff style of messaging.
In 1995, when he was president of the Grand Council of Guardians, another black fraternal police group, he traveled to Indiana to escort boxer Mike Tyson after he was released from prison for a rape conviction – a decision that Mr. Adams said was intended to help the athlete “change your life”.
As a state senator in 2010, Mr. Adams put up billboards encouraging young men not to wear saggy pants, using the slogan: “Roll up your pants, lift your image.” The following year he posted a memorable video encourage parents to check children’s toys and memorabilia for drugs and weapons.
Mr. Adams is certainly not the first mayor to struggle with messaging; his predecessor, Bill de Blasio, acknowledged his own email problemblaming his widespread unpopularity on his inability to articulate a coherent vision.
So far, Mr Adams has faulted the media for distorting his views or focusing on issues that portray him in a negative light, and he and his team have pushed back against polls showing his approval rating is falling.
The mayor said last month that some reporters ‘lacked journalistic integrity’ and tried to ‘distort reality’ – pointing to coverage of him being heckled in Madison Square Garden.
“Let’s report the news and stop sensationalising because I need to get a lot of clicks,” Mr. Adams said in an interview on NY1.
Mr. Adams’ inconsistent messaging was not limited to crime.
The mayor has argued that he is leading the nation in the fight against the coronavirus, and he recently received praise from public health experts for announcing that the city would provide Paxlovid, the antiviral drug, free at testing sites. mobiles. The next day, the same experts slammed Mr. Adams for quietly scrapping the city’s color-coded alert system that warned New Yorkers of heightened risks from the virus.
On schools, Adams said he’s worried about the roughly 150,000 families who have left the public school system in recent years, and he’s expanded the city’s gifted and talented program to convince families to stay. . Then he upset parents by cutting school budgets, cutting teachers and opposing a state bill to reduce class sizes.
Camille Rivera, a Democratic political consultant, said Mr. Adams would be better served if he chose to talk about issues that contribute to crime, such as skyrocketing rents and school budget cuts that affected positions like guidance counselors and art teachers.
“You can put cops all over town, but if you cut funding to social service spaces, then what are you really doing here?” she says.
Mr Levy said the mayor’s message was consistent: ‘He is fully committed to making our city safer, getting us out of Covid and investing in our city’s youngest.’
Mr Adams defended the school cuts on Thursday, arguing they were necessary because of declining student enrolment.
The roots of violence in New York are complex and not entirely under the mayor’s control.
Major crime is up 37% this year, fueled by an increase in theft and armed robbery, including auto theft. Meanwhile, murders are down almost 8% from a year ago and shootings are down around 10%, according to police figuresalthough both figures remain above those of the pre-pandemic period.
A series of violent episodes have contributed to the feeling that the city is unsafe. A woman was shot and killed on the Upper East Side while pushing her infant daughter in a stroller; an 11-year-old girl was killed in the Bronx when she was caught in the crossfire of teenagers. Goldman Sachs employee dies in unprovoked subway shooting; and a mass shooting in the subway injured at least 23 people in Brooklyn.
Still, some view Mr. Adams’ public comments as alarmist.
“Crime rates are nowhere near where they were 20 or 30 years ago,” said Olivia Lapeyrolerie, a political consultant who was previously deputy press secretary to Mr. de Blasio. “Not giving that context, which he knows better than most, incites unnecessary panic.”
Mr. Adams sometimes seems to recognize the need to add more nuance to some of his off-the-cuff remarks.
He clarified in May that the crime was not the worst it had ever been, but he said he had “never seen anything like it: the over-availability of guns, the ease of use guns and the comfort people have in carrying guns”. He occasionally talks about declining shootings and murders this year, but those comments often get less attention than the crime scenes he visits.
The mayor is the first to admit that his ability to fight crime will define his town hall. In a recent interview on NBC’s “Nightly News” along with Lester Holt, Mr Adams gave himself an “incomplete” rating on crime-fighting in his first six months in office.
“I don’t succeed until every New Yorker feels safe,” he said.