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NYC Mayor Eric Adams’s Crime Plan Is Loathed by Liberals. But It Might Work.

Nevertheless, the mayor’s plan was immediately met with controversy, landing in a moment when liberals have perhaps never been so divided in their philosophies about crime reduction. Proponents of criminal-justice reform immediately criticized the plan for what they perceive as a regression to some of the most harmful practices of law enforcement. In a joint statement, the city’s leading public defender groups said they did not support the “focus on discredited punitive and surveillance-based strategies.”

Falling under particular scrutiny is the plan to resurrect and rebrand the police department’s plainclothes anti-crime unit, which was shut down in 2020 but held a major role in gun searches involving young Black and Latino men at the height of the stop-and-frisk era. The mayor’s plan vows that the unit will operate differently and more responsibly now — although it fails to say how it would do so. Nor does it acknowledge that at the height of stop-and-frisk, in 2011, the city still recorded 1,511 shootings, an increase over the previous two years.

As Alex Vitale, a sociologist at Brooklyn College who studies policing, put it, the plan “is almost completely lacking in evidentiary basis.”

Bail reform, which eliminated the option of cash bail for low-level, nonviolent offenses and took effect two years ago, is another target of the mayor’s plan, even though there is no conclusive research linking it to the recent rise in violent crime and even though violent crime has gone up in cities where bail reform has not been enacted. Given that the mayor has no real ability to reverse course — reform is a matter of state law, and Assembly Speaker Carl E. Heastie quickly called the attack a scapegoat — Mr. Adams’s rhetoric is serving only to further alienate progressives when instead they might be brought along.

Where reformists and serious law-and-order adherents easily find common ground is in the need to reduce the influx of guns into the state and city, which the new mayor is committed to doing. Here the plan calls in part for collaboration with state police to implement spot checks at bus and train stations, which may turn out to be a big success although it’s hard to imagine how many gun runners are moving their arsenals via the Megabus from Philadelphia.

Absent from the blueprint is any discussion of how to handle domestic violence, which is especially curious given that it is devastating in itself and often the precursor to other crimes. Had there been some kind of protocol for resolving an argument between a mother and her son in Harlem last week, the outcome might well have been different, and the two officers who were killed might have never met gunfire.

Liz Glazer, a former federal prosecutor who ran Mayor Bill de Blasio’s office for criminal justice for several years, said she believes the path forward rests on a “robust infrastructure of prevention” that includes significant improvements to public housing and conditions that aggravate frustration and despair. “The thing about Adams’s plan is that it does both,’’ she said. She was encouraged that the plan accommodates prevention but was cautious about the department’s zealous history of intervention. “The question is which way will it tip?”

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