Last June, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio (D) and his wife shared their vision for police reform. The mayor spoke of the need to fundamentally change the nature of policing, including reallocating “functions within policing right now that [could] be done better by civilians.” His wife, Chirlane McCray, told the interviewer that a society without police officers patrolling the streets “would be like a nirvana, a utopia that we are nowhere close to getting to.”
At the same time, Mayor de Blasio slashed $1 billion from the city’s police budget and diverted the monies to youth groups and social services programs. He assured residents that the funding reallocation would not jeopardize public safety and effective policing. The City’s Police Commissioner called the cuts – which included a hiring freeze, a $352 million reduction in overtime, and a cancellation of recruit and cadet classes – “a recipe for disaster.”
Consistent with the beliefs espoused by NYC’s First Couple, a recent tweet by the Ms. McCray urged residents to become their own neighborhood first responders and “intervene when witnessing hateful violence and harassment.”
Her tips, summarized as Distract, Delegate, Document, Delay and Direct, include interrupting and “engaging directly” with the victim, “supporting the person in crisis” by taking notes or a video during the incident, asking for help from someone in a “position of authority,” and checking in afterwards with “the survivor” to show them “they are valued.” “Most importantly, keep a safe distance!”
She may as well have added, “Project a giant bat symbol onto the night sky.”
One of the “D” words missing from the tweet is “Disarmed.” New York City’s weapon laws make it all but impossible for a person to defend themselves or others against “hateful violence and harassment.”
It is unlawful for any person to carry or possess, in any public place, street, or park, a knife with a blade length of four inches or more. The City’s gun laws are very restrictive and complex. Permits are required for the possession and purchase of long guns. To lawfully possess a handgun in the city, a substantial investment of time and money is required to get a license – even those with a valid New York State pistol permit must apply for and obtain a separate “special permit.” The license application fee for a handgun is $340 ($140 for a rifle or shotgun), plus $88.25 for the mandatory fingerprint cards. Carrying is generally forbidden unless the person has a license of a class that specifically authorizes concealed carry. Reciprocity doesn’t exist as the city does not honor any other states’ permits to carry. It is a crime for any person authorized to possess a handgun of a particular caliber to possess handgun ammunition of a different caliber within the city. As we reported earlier this year, the processing of license applications by the NYPD has essentially stalled. To top it all off, New York City makes it a crime “to fire or discharge any gun, pistol, rifle, fowling-piece or other firearms in the city.”
Residents who opt to seek help from someone in a “position of authority” and call the police may find that the criminal is done and well away before help arrives. The most current data indicates that on average, NYPD officers responding to a 911 call about a “crime in progress” are on the scene in just under eight minutes on the highest priority (“critical”) call – burglaries, robberies, armed violent assaults, and “shots fired.” Callers for the next highest priority, “serious” crimes in progress (auto theft, other larceny, other assault), can expect to wait almost ten minutes, on average, and other “crime in progress” calls have an average response time of 17.26 minutes.
The incredulous responses to Ms. McCray’s tweet ranged from, “This is just replacing policing with untrained interventions and it’s insane on the face of it,” to “What have you been drinking[,] woman?”
As NYC politicians continue to work their way through the fundamental reform of the police service to the nirvana that lies beyond, disarmed and defenseless citizens in the Big Apple can hardly be blamed for choosing the only “D” word tip in Ms. McCray’s advice that makes any sense: “keep a safe distance!”
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