Public Advocate Jumaane Williams rolled out a vision last week he calls “Redefining Public Safety” — an earnest effort to flesh out what the less-extreme de-policing advocates want. But the better name is “Eliminating Public Safety.”
“People want to feel safe. Very often the thing that’s offered is simply more policing,” Williams lamented last week. “That’s a narrative that needs to change.”
Huh? Through Sept. 6, the number of people shot is nearly double last year’s figure (1,288 vs. 653). Many survived, thank goodness, but homicides are still up 35 percent from 2019. Burglaries are up 41 percent; auto thefts, 61 percent.
And the quality of life in the city, with vagrants and druggies terrorizing communities, is the worst in decades — a key reason people are fleeing.
Yet Williams wants less policing.
Not all his views are entirely off-base. It would be great if someone other than cops could handle crises of people with mental-health issues. Police aren’t mental-health experts or social workers, and don’t want to be.
He calls for “strengthening” the “community-based mental-health infrastructure,” which sounds fine (but no Thrive, please). Yet he also wants to “minimize” hospitalization, when it’s clear that more, not less, of the severely mentally ill should be in hospitals — the city’s shortage of psychiatric beds is a problem.
More important: His other alternatives to policing are downright absurd — exposing the hollowness of the entire de-policing approach. To Williams, for instance, gun violence isn’t a criminal matter; it’s a “public-health crisis.” To address it, he’d deploy “credible messengers,” “community groups” and “violence interrupters.”
He’d also make housing a “human right” (never mind supply) and “question” the city’s “over-reliance” on law enforcement in the subways. Feel safer yet?
In fact, more policing was the key to reining in violence during the pre-Giuliani bad old days. Two Democrats — Mayor David Dinkins and City Council Speaker Peter Vallone Sr. — added 5,000 cops to the force after murders peaked at 2,262 in 1990; Mayor Rudy Giuliani added thousands more. Upshot: Before the 2020 spike, murders since then fell 86 percent.
Meanwhile, Williams has spent much of his political life pushing for “reforms” (the rollback of broken windows policing, the emptying of jails, etc.) that have fueled the current wave of violence.
Ironically, he claims he’s looking out for minorities, yet they’re the biggest victims of his ideas. And they know it: For example, 80 percent of American blacks want more police in their areas, or at least as much as they have now, a recent Gallup poll showed. So do 83 percent of Hispanics.
Yes, many blacks and Hispanics want changes in policing and the criminal-justice system — but “de-policing” is just a bid to pawn off lefty fantasies as real answers.