Public Advocate Jumaane D. Williams (D) and community cure violence organizations gathered yesterday in front of One Police Plaza to respond to the tragic spike of gun violence over the holiday weekend and in recent weeks.
“This past weekend New York City saw a devastating increase in gun violence, lives lost and lives forever changed, and this phenomena repeats across the nation,” said Williams.
All Manhattan precincts are divided up into two; Patrol Borough Manhattan South covers the lower half of the borough and Patrol Borough Manhattan North covers the upper half. According to NYPD public information, Manhattan South precincts had no shootings last weekend, but Manhattan North precincts had a staggering 12 shootings and 24 victims, resulting in two murders.
Statistically speaking, shooting victims citywide have skyrocketed 204 percent and shooting incidents are up 165 percent in the last 28 day span, while gun arrests and gun charges have dropped.
The real question everyone kept trying to answer is why the severe uptick in gun violence was happening.
“We hear unhelpful and unconfirmed accusations and reasonings for this violence – whether civilian to officer, civilian to civilian, officer to civilian,” said Williams. “To blame budget reallocations, bail reforms, or banning chokeholds is a false narrative excluding the many factors leading to this moment.”
Williams said the health and economic crisis, coupled with the civil unrest over police brutality and civilian access to guns, has led the city into this period of violence. However, he emphasized it’s an issue that is not for police alone to solve.
“If we all work together we can at least decrease, we can’t stop every single act of violence,” said Iesha Sekou, founder of Street Corner Resources. “But we can work together wherever we are.”
Eric Waterman, co-founder and executive of East Flatbush Village, Inc., emphasized that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
“The violence is happening and then the police react. We can be preventative,” Waterman. “Most people’s behaviors are reflectors; they don’t just come up with this stuff out of the blue. Us being able to diagnose the situation and be able to be on the ground and engage our community members with the way we need to. Some of us have gone through these situations.”
Shermaine Laster, who works for SUNY Downstate and participates in Occupy City Hall, aired his grievances about not only the police but with Williams and community leaders present.
Laster was invited to be a representative for the occupy movement after his interruption of the press conference, and spoke about conditions in the camp, clashes with the police, and the stressful effects the health and racial injustice pandemic has had on communities. “They standing down on everything, they standing down on crime in the community,” he said, positing that the uptick in shootings could also stem from a hesitancy on the police’s part.
Williams said that the victims of gun violence this weekend deserve for the city, community leaders, activists, residents, and police to have a more mature conversation about public safety and law enforcement during these difficult and historical times.
In a press conference yesterday, Mayor Bill De Blasio and Chief of the NYPD Department Terence Monahan addressed citywide gun violence this weekend as well as this rumored “standing down” issue.
“We’ve been seeing some troubling signs we have to address very aggressively and with the whole community,” said de Blasio. “So, there’s no question that, as we’re getting into warmer and warmer weather, and we’re feeling the effects of people being cooped up for months, and the economy obviously has not restarted to anywhere the extent we needed to, so it there’s a lot less for people to do – we have a real problem here.
Monahan agreed that the gun violence plaguing the city is a combination of different factors, like bail reform, COVID releases from prison, and court shut downs. He said there’s a minority that’s pushing rhetoric against the police when the majority want communities coming together, and that’s lowered police morale.
“A lot of these quality life issues are what led us to be able to reduce crime by addressing these quality of life issues. So, we need to know from the communities how they want their neighborhoods, please,” he said.
Monahan also said that police have been hesitant since the City Council passed the chokehold bill, which classifies compressing the diaphragm or windpipe during an arrest as a misdemeanor.
“[Cops] are afraid, if they’re making an arrest, that if their knee goes on the back of someone, that they are fighting their life or that they could be prosecuted – that’s a problem. It makes our cops take that step back,” said Monahan.