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NYPD announces new crackdown on quality-of-life crimes

“This is precision-policing,” said NYPD Commissioner Sewell. “NOT a return to stop, question, and frisk”

NYC Mayor Eric Adams talks with NYPD comish Keechant Sewell

New York Mayor Eric Adams talks with New York City Police Commissioner Keechant Sewell during a news conference Monday, March 14, 2022, in Washington, D.C. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

AP Photo/Evan Vucci

By Rocco Parascandola
New York Daily News

NEW YORK — The NYPD, still reeling from a weekend of extraordinary gun violence and facing pressure from Mayor Adams to make the city safer, announced Wednesday it will renew its focus on quality-of-life offenses.

The announcement comes after Adams told Police Commissioner Keechant Sewell and Chief of Department Kenneth Corey that last weekend’s mayhem, which included 29 people shot, one fatally, cannot happen again, police sources said.

“Let’s put it this way,” one source said. “The mayor was not happy.”

The new initiative amounted to an escalation of “broken windows”-style enforcement. Sewell cast the effort as a way to respond to both community concerns and a continued spike in shootings.

“To be clear this is NOT a return to stop, question, and frisk – nor is it ‘policing for numbers,’” Sewell said in a statement.

“This is precision-policing aimed at reducing violence in the neighborhoods seeing disproportionate numbers of shootings – and it is what the public is demanding.”

But critics see as it a return to a policing model that targeted minorities for minor offenses, fostering a mistrust of the nation’s largest police force.

[MORE: Precision policing: The next law enforcement era]

“Let’s be clear: this plan reinstates broken-windows policing, and it will undoubtedly send more Black and Latinx New Yorkers to Rikers Island, a facility that is wholly incapable of caring for the people in its custody,” said Legal Aid Society attorney Jennvine Wong. “Broken windows policing has long been discredited for furthering mistrust between the police and the communities we serve, and this rebranded version will yield those same results, with the same disparate enforcement.”

Adams campaigned on the promise he would bring back a better version of the plainclothes Anti-Crime Unit that was tasked with taking guns off the street. The unit was disbanded nearly two years ago because it was involved in a disproportionate number of shootings and citizen complaints.

Adams spokesman Fabien Levy said the mayor “has made clear that keeping New Yorkers safe is his top priority.”

“New Yorkers are looking for action to stop the everyday crimes they are reporting, and, through precision policing, the NYPD can be trusted to enforce our laws and protect New Yorkers,” the spokesman added.

The new Public Safety Unit hit the streets March 14. But sources said Adams was at the same time pushing for a more proactive approach to quality of life offenses, such as public urination and drinking, that he believes contribute to a feeling of disorder in many pockets of the city.

“For a lot of people, it’s about the loud noise, the public drinking, all these quality of life violations,” a second police source said. “Those are the complaints we hear most about, even with all the violence.”

According to the NYPD, quality of life complaints since 2019 have soared. Drinking in public complaints have doubled, to 3,193 from 1,452. Calls about loud parties in public have more than doubled, to 9,013 from 3,338.

According to NYPD stats through Sunday, 284 people were shot in the city so far this year — up 17% from the 242 during the same period last year.

“We know from experience, as the weather gets warmer, that 30% of all shooting incidents are preceded by multiple reports of other lawbreaking and violations leading up to that violence,” said Chief of Crime Control Strategies Michael LiPetri. “Engaging in proactive enforcement can be the difference that prevents that next shooting, and prevents the next child from being harmed.”

But Christopher Dunn, legal director for the New York Civil Liberties Union, said the answer to reducing violent crime is not “another Giuliani-era broken-windows policing initiative.”

“Locking up people caught drinking a beer in public or shoplifting food will only ensnare more Black and brown New Yorkers in a regressive and abusive criminal legal system — not address violent crime,” Dunn said.

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