More Democrats should follow Eric Adams’ lead on crime
Democrats everywhere have struggled with balancing necessary and important policing and criminal justice reform with the reality that violent crime has surged.
As President Joe Biden prepares to meet with New York City Mayor Eric Adams to address the years-long surge in violent gun crime, he’s taking an important, if a little late, step in acknowledging what many Americans have known for some time: We have a serious problem of rising violence in America.
Right-wing personalities and elected leaders, some in good faith and others in bad, have been sounding this alarm for a while. But it’s hard to cut through what’s earnest and what’s just exploitation. And after Trump supporters were seen violently attacking law enforcement at the U.S. Capitol last year, it’s increasingly hard to take their “law and order” pleas seriously.
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In other instances, Democrats rightly mock and dismiss right-wing outrage over hyped-up culture wars and invented bogeymen — the nefarious forces behind the green M&M’s new sneakers and Minnie Mouse’s new pantsuit, for example.
But when it comes to crime, the left has seriously missed the mark. Perhaps Biden is trying to make up for lost time.
Violent crime in America has surged over the past few years. Murders in 2020 shot up more than 27%, and were up again last year, bringing homicide rates the country hasn’t witnessed since the mid-1990s.
New York City has felt the pain, too; while the spike in murders in America’s largest city hasn’t been as sharp as those in places like Philadelphia, Baltimore or Chicago, violent crime has risen acutely in the five boroughs nonetheless. In 2020, the number of shootings in New York more than doubled over 2019, and in 2021 they climbed further, to the highest figure in decades. The subways saw an especially troubling increase in mayhem.
Two recent stories paint a bleak picture. Thousands of New Yorkers and police officers flooded the streets of Midtown Manhattan last week to honor the memory of Jason Rivera, one of two officers shot during a routine domestic disturbance call. Wilbert Mora, the second murdered officer, will be laid to rest Wednesday.
In a story that got less national attention, 33-year-old Jessica Britt was stabbed to death at her Queens apartment building, allegedly by her neighbor Evelyn Cruz, known to residents as “the monster.” Cruz was previously given a menacing charge for threatening to cut a neighbor with a razor blade in 2019, and six months earlier reportedly slashed the neck of another. She got six months behind bars and was given a conditional discharge.
Swimming against the current
With all of this in mind — and that’s just a snapshot of one major city — White House press secretary Jen Psaki muddled her messaging during a podcast with her former Obama White House colleagues, claiming Fox News was operating in an “alternate universe” for calling Biden soft on crime. “What does that even mean, right?” she snarked.
But many have leveled the same complaint of Biden and Democrats, and voters are agreeing, at least according to polls. Democrats everywhere have struggled with balancing necessary and important policing and criminal justice reform with the reality that violent crime has surged.
In the summer of 2020, Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser marched in lockstep with demonstrators who were shouting what had become a new slogan: “Defund the police!” In 2021, she proposed cutting police budgets, in line with the demands of many progressives across the country.
In New York last month, Manhattan’s new District Attorney Alvin Bragg issued a memo calling for the non-prosecution of some minor crimes and no jail or prison time for many others. It’s drawn skepticism from some, including New York City Police Commissioner Keechant Sewell, and pushback from others, including Democrats like Rep. Gregory Meeks.
Swimming against the current in a Democratic mayoral primary last year, former police officer Eric Adams won by promising both proactive policing and reform. Now Mayor Adams has released a 15-page “Blueprint to End Gun Violence” that the New York Times said was “loathed by liberals.”
And former Long Island Rep. Thomas Suozzi, running for governor this year, is putting crime at the top of his agenda. In new campaign ads and press conferences, he sounds a lot more like a Republican than a typical New York Democrat.
These New York Democrats understand that responsible politicians can’t pretend that crime isn’t a real concern for voters, or that Republicans are simply inventing it the way they do other imaginary evils. It might be true that New York City is still far safer than it was in “the bad old days,” but that’s cold comfort for people victimized by crime or worried about being hurt.
In addition to endangering law enforcement and citizens alike, it’s also gifting the issue to people like Donald Trump, who will easily and effectively exploit it to his political advantage.
It’s good Biden is meeting with Adams. Because there’s no crime in admitting crime is real and worrisome to many voters all over the country. The more Democrats ignore it or insist it’s simply made up, the more Republicans will seize. And for once, they’ll be right to.
S.E. Cupp is the host of “S.E. Cupp Unfiltered” on CNN.
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