Shootings are up in New York City more than 150 percent from mid-July to mid-August compared with last summer, yet the number of gun arrests has fallen, inviting criticism of the city’s approach to crime fighting, the Washington Post reports. In June, the New York Police Department disbanded its controversial anticrime unit — plainclothes officers whose mission, to rid the streets of guns, once relied on “stop and frisk” practices later exposed to have targeted innocent Blacks and Latinos. Instead, officials have moved to double down on community engagement, establishing a rapid-response team to connect with people in distress and promoting a respected police official, Jeffrey Maddrey, to be the face of change.
The goal is to project more “soft power “into New York’s most troubled neighborhoods and make a concerted effort to prove to people suspicious or resentful of law enforcement that the police can be trusted again. “People,” Maddrey said, “need to see the human side of police officers.” The gun violence is reminiscent of the 1980s and 1990s. Authorities have recorded 900 shootings this year, up from around 500 through mid-August 2019. President Donald Trump has threatened to deploy federal agents unless local leaders can restore order. City officials have rejected the idea, and the NYPD insists a more gentle approach is the solution. Christopher Ryan, who led the Manhattan district attorney’s violent criminal enterprises unit from 2010 to 2018, said a neighborhood-based law enforcement strategy is “absolutely an essential aspect of modern-day policing and policing in New York, without question.” The former prosecutor, whose unit took down violent street crews and gangs, called dissolution of the anti-crime unit a mistake. Maddrey has been visible around the city, encouraging residents to reach out and making it known he is doing the same.