Gun violence, robberies, shootings and homicides have increased dramatically in New York City since 2022 began. In 2020 alone, there were a total of 1,530 shootings, more than double the previous year. A figure that increased twelve months later, leaving a balance of 1,877 shooting incidents in 2021 and reaching the highest record recorded in decades.

So far this year alone, crime has already increased by 38% in the city of skyscrapers, a figure that rises to 70% if only public transport areas such as the subway are counted. This past January, gun violence has left a dramatic upturn in fatalities from all walks of life.

The deaths of two police officers, Wilbert Mora and Jason Rivera, while responding to a domestic violence emergency call in Harlem, bringing the total number of Metropolitan Police officers killed since 2022 began, marked a turning point in New York City. Days earlier, a young woman working as a cashier at a Manhattan burger joint was shot and killed during a robbery. Shortly thereafter, a one-year-old baby was shot in the face by a stray bullet in the Bronx borough and another Asian woman was killed when she was pushed onto train tracks by a homeless person with severe mental health problems.

Every precinct in Manhattan, with the exception of Central Park, has seen crime spikes increase in this first month and a half of the year, in five of which those rates have multiplied. “No neighborhood is safe. At this rate, we will lose the city by St. Patrick’s Day” next March 17, warned one Brooklyn cop. “The tourists will never come back,” another officer fears. “Only the squirrels are safe.”

Gun arrests were up 6 percent last year over 2020 and up more than 35 percent compared to 2019. Much of the gun smuggling comes into the United States through the South and Midwest, the route known as the Iron Pipeline, and to little avail for now have been the multiple attempts by authorities to confiscate them, having even gone so far as to offer free mobile devices or deliveries without questions or legal records in exchange.

Many citizens associate crime and grand thefts (197 so far in 2022 compared to 43 in 2021) to the health and economic effects of the pandemic, with the consequent mental health problems, unemployment and rising prices, which have left thousands of families unprotected and unable to meet their expenses.

New York City Mayor Eric Adams promised during his election campaign to address the rampant wave of violence and crime flooding the skyscraper city, which has increased with the devastating effects of the pandemic. The hope of being able to tackle the problem with his extensive experience on the streets and the confidence of accomplishing that goal led Adams to win the majority of the population’s support at the polls.

The new mayor, a former police officer, has set as a priority line of his political agenda the decision to impose a tough hand on crime to address the deterioration of the city when he took office on January 1. But the vision and methodology of the former policeman will be part of his great management challenges, as he does not have the consensus of his colleagues and part of the Democratic Party electorate.

Both the more progressive wing of the liberals and pressure from social activists hinder the mayor’s plans, who intends to promote social programs in slums and vulnerable areas, as well as to impose strict security regulations and more officers on the streets, also requesting to expand funding and security measures.

The popularized “defund the police” slogan, rescued from 2020 after the historic race riots that swept across the U.S., helped Democrats counter Trump’s imposition of “law and order” and win the presidential election. Used as a protest over the death of African-American George Floyd in Minneapolis, suffocated by a policeman, it now provokes internal divisions that make it difficult for the new mayor to manage.

To issues of traditional division between liberals and conservatives, such as abortion or guns, has recently been added that of security. Since the racial demonstrations of 2020, the largest in the country in the last half century, police officers and their methods in carrying out their duties have been in the spotlight of an increasingly polarized society.

Images of police abuses against Americans, with tragic outcomes, have circled the globe in recent years, calling into question the effectiveness of law enforcement and reinforcing normalized racial discrimination through the disproportionate use of force.

In 2021, police fatally shot at least 1,055 people nationwide, the highest number since 2015, when records began in The Washington Post. This latest tally exceeds previous years – 1,021 shootings in 2020 and 999 in 2019 – and coincides with an increase in the national average for violent crime, though it is nowhere near the historic highs of the 1980s and 1990s.

President Joe Biden’s visit to New York was more than a symbolism-laden meeting with Eric Adams. “It’s time for us to say: enough is enough,” Biden said. “There are steps we can take to turn pain into purpose. Mayor Adams and I agree: the solution is not to defund our police, but to give them the tools, training and funding to be the allies and protectors our communities need,” the US president added, announcing an additional $300 million investment in community policing. That is, to increase the number of police personnel patrolling the streets.


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