He’s pushed the mantra of “law and order,” but what about “equity and order?”
This week marked Eric Adams’ first week as mayor of New York City. The Black, male mayor has preached the mantra of taking back the streets that are already in the people’s possession.
Adams campaigned on bringing back the “tough on crime” 20th century relic, which is something that has been pushed by the local right wing since former Mayor Bill de Blasio first took office. In an infamous ad, the team for de Blasio’s opponent, Joe Lhota, put together a collage of images from the city’s “bad old days,” attempting to use scare tactics to get people to the polls.
With the pandemic leaving the streets empty and crime slightly increasing, but still low, Adams, a former police captain, saw an opening.
During his first set of talks with the media, Adams said that he would reform and bring back the Anti-Crime Unit, which was criticized in the past for using aggressive tactics.
Adams has also gone on record stating that he would bring back solitary confinement. Something that anti-police brutality and anti-incarceration groups have fought against for years.
“They better enjoy that one-day reprieve because January 1st they are going back into segregation if they committed a violent act,” said Adams of de Blasio’s solitary confinement policy.
In September, it was reported that murders fell 22% and shootings dropped 9% from the same time in 2020. During that same time, it was announced that, overall, crime in the city decreased by 5.4% when compared to 2020. In November, murders decreased by 17.2% when compared to the same time in 2021 along with a 5.7% decrease in burglaries.
All stats are tracked by the NYPD’s CompStat system. Marvin Mayfield, lead statewide organizer at Center for Community Alternatives, said that Adams has a chance to continue police reform or go back to the “bad old days” for communities of color.
“New York stands on a precipice. The COVID pandemic has highlighted and exacerbated inequities in our city and we urgently need our new mayor to invest in communities and address the harms of mass incarceration,” said Mayfield. ”We applaud his support for the Clean Slate Act which will end perpetual punishment and allow New Yorkers with old conviction records to access jobs, housing and education. At the same time, we caution him to move away from the misinformation and outright lies that characterized the last mayor’s approach to bail reform and instead to recognize that these necessary reforms have protected thousands of people from the trauma of pretrial jailing and allowed them to maintain their jobs, support their families, and return to court to exercise their most basic rights.”
Vera Institute of Justice, which refers to itself as an independent research organization looking to improve the country’s judicial system, investigated the city’s correction budget and noticed that for the proposed fiscal year 2022 it calls for $2.6 billion allocated towards corrections, which, according to the nonprofit’s stats, is $1 billion above the country’s most expensive jail system in the country.
According to another report by the Vera Institute of Justice, entitled “The Cost of Incarceration in New York State,” a typical New York State county spent more than $225 per night to incarcerate a person, which is $82,000 per year.
The nonprofit believes that this money could be directed to funding other services that would build communities and help prevent the need to incarcerate people in the first place. Total state and federal aid for all counties outside of New York City totaled
$26.2 billion, made up of $20 billion of county budgets and $1.3 billion spent on county jails. According to the report, the median state county jail budget is $8.2 million. A Pew Charitable Trust report from last January showed that local spending on jails topped $25 billion in nationwide data. The budget runs opposed to the failing crime rate and fewer people going to jail.
According to Pew, between 2007 and 2017 there was a 20% decrease in crime and a 19% drop in jail admission, but not a reduction in jail spending. During the same period, jail expenditures went up 13% while crime went down 20%, jail admissions decreased by 19% and the jail population decreased by 4%.
Kesi Foster, a spokesperson for Communities United for Police Reform, said that the mayor needs to act on the community’s demands to reduce the NYPD’s budget size, scope, and power, take that money and invest in disadvantaged communities.
“We know that historically new mayors come in and attempt to rebrand failed policing strategies,” said Foster. “Mayor Adams’ rhetoric around expanding stop-and-frisk and his commitments to bring back notoriously violent plainclothes units are no different and raise serious concerns. Mayor Adams needs to hold officers accountable and ensure that officers who engage in misconduct are fired, not double down on dangerous policies from the past.”
According to the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics, as of April 2021, it spends $81 billion a year incarcerating Americans.
Part of those arrests and incarnations can be traced to infractions like prostitution, resisting arrest, fare evasion and marijuana misdemeanors. All are things that Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg said in his day-one-policy memo he wouldn’t prosecute unless they were accompanied by another felony.
They earn praise and denouncement. Praise came courtesy of The Legal Aid Society.
“The Legal Aid Society welcomes this memo as a substantive first step to reform an office that long resorted to making excessive bail requests and overcharging our clients,” stated Tina Luongo, attorney-in-charge of the criminal defense practice at The Legal Aid Society. “Meaningful reform demands that these newly announced policies become standard operating procedure officewide, and we urge judges to not stand in the way of these long overdue and necessary reforms.”
Denouncement of Bragg’s day-one policy came courtesy of Police Benevolent Association President Pay Lynch.
“We continue to have serious concerns about the message these types of policies send to both police officers and criminals on the street,” Lynch stated. “Police officers don’t want to be sent out to enforce laws that the district attorneys won’t prosecute. And there are already too many people who believe that they can commit crimes, resist arrest, interfere with police officers and face zero consequences. We look forward to discussing these issues with District Attorney Bragg, so that our members can do their job safely and effectively. We must all pull together towards one goal: a safer New York City.”