There have been murders and shootings in New York City this year. But you may not know if you listen to the mayor of the city, Eric Adams.
In May, Mr. Adams said he had “never witnessed crime at this level,” although there were 488 homicides in the city last year, compared to 2,262 in 1990, when he was a transit police officer. Months earlier, he told reporters that he “felt unsafe” on the subway.
Mr. Adams regularly appears at crime scenes, using his mayor’s pulpit to highlight the widespread presence of guns on the city’s streets and to mourn with the victims’ relatives.
In fact, he called 911 at least twice when he was mayor — the first during his first full day on the job, to report a potential “impending attack.” (No arrests have been made.)
Mr. Adams ran for mayor with a promise to counter a wave of violence in the pandemic era. But while its constant focus on shootings and visits to active crime scenes have attracted media attention, they may also contribute to the perception that the city is unsafe: A poll last month found that three-quarters of New Yorkers feel “somewhat or very much.” worried”. that they would be victims of violent crime.
His fixation on crime has also complicated the other big theme of his first year in office: guiding the city’s economic recovery after the pandemic.
Adams has been an outspoken advocate of workers returning to city offices, and has urged tourists to return — a campaign complicated by his portrayal of New York as a lawless city where criminals and guns roam unchecked.
Kathryn Wylde, president of the Partnership for New York City, an influential business group, said the mayor’s message may seem inconsistent, but he was right to focus on public safety.
“The mayor’s message reflects what most New Yorkers feel, which is that we are concerned about safety, but we have the ultimate confidence that our city will recover,” she said.
Fabien Levy, a spokesman for the mayor, said in a statement that crime was nowhere near historic levels, but New Yorkers “deserve to know the facts.”
“As a result of our efforts in the first six months, both homicides and shootings fell in double digits last month,” he said, “but we are honest with the New Yorkers about the work that remains to be done and the changes that are yet to be made.” should be made at every level of government — from prosecutors and judges to state and federal legislators.”
Mr. Adams has lived in the city all his life, spent 22 years as a police officer, led a group called “100 Blacks in Law Enforcement Who Care” and served as a state senator and then president of the Brooklyn borough. During that time, he was known for an unorthodox, improvised style of messaging.
In 1995, when he was chairman of the Grand Council of Guardians, another black fraternal police group, he traveled to Indiana to escort boxer Mike Tyson after his release from prison on a rape conviction – a move Mr Adams said. was intended to help the athlete “turn his life around”.
As a state senator in 2010, Mr. Adams put up billboards to encourage young men not to wear saggy pants, with the slogan, “Raise your pants, raise your image.” The following year, he released a memorable video encouraging parents to check children’s toys and souvenirs for drugs and weapons.
During his mayoral campaign, Mr. Adams gentrifiers who arrived in Brooklyn from “hijacking” apartments from longtime residents and urged them to “go back to Iowa”. Since his election, Mr. Adams promoted his vegan lifestyle to New Yorkers but had to admit in February that he sometimes ate fish.
Mr. Adams is certainly not the first mayor to have problems with messaging; his predecessor, Bill de Blasio, has acknowledged his own messaging problem and blamed his widespread unpopularity for his failure to formulate a cohesive vision.
Mr Adams has so far found more blame from the media for misrepresenting his views or for focusing on matters that portray him in a negative light, and he and his team have resisted polls showing his approval rating is falling. .
The mayor said last month that some reporters “lack journalistic integrity” and tried to “twist reality” – pointing to reports that he was being harassed in Madison Square Garden.
“Let’s report the news and let’s stop sensationalizing because I need to get a lot of clicks,” said Mr. Adams in an interview on NY1.
Mr. Adams’ inconsistent reporting is not limited to crime.
The mayor has argued that he is leading the nation in fighting the coronavirus, and he recently received praise from public health experts for announcing that the city would provide Paxlovid, the antiviral drug, for free at mobile testing sites. The next day, the same experts criticized Mr. Adams for quietly removing the city’s color-coded warning system that warned New Yorkers of increased risks from the virus.
On the subject of schools, Mr. Adams has said he is concerned about the approximately 150,000 families that have left the public school system in recent years, and he has expanded the city’s gifted and talented program to convince families to stay. He then upset parents by cutting school budgets, cutting back on teachers, and opposing a state law to make classes smaller.
Camille Rivera, a Democratic political adviser, said Mr Adams would do better if he chose to talk about the problems that contribute to crime, such as skyrocketing rents and school budget cuts that impacted positions such as study advisors and art teachers.
“You can put cops all over town, but if you cut social security funding, what are you doing here anyway?” she said.
Levy said the mayor’s message was consistent: “He is fully committed to making our city safer, leading us out of Covid and investing in our city’s youngest.”
Mr Adams defended the cuts to schools on Thursday, arguing they were necessary because of lower student enrollment.
The roots of violence in New York City are complex and not entirely within the mayor’s control.
The number of major crimes is up 37 percent this year, fueled by an increase in robberies and major thefts, including car thefts. At the same time, the number of homicides has fallen by almost 8 percent compared to last year, and the number of shootings by about 10 percent, according to police figures, although both numbers remain higher than the pre-pandemic period.
A series of violent episodes have contributed to the feeling that the city is not safe. A woman was fatally shot on the Upper East Side while pushing her daughter in a stroller; an 11-year-old girl was killed in the Bronx when she was caught in the teenage crossfire. A Goldman Sachs employee died in an unprovoked subway shooting; and a mass shooting on the subway injured at least 23 people in Brooklyn.
Still, some view Mr. Adams’ public comments as fear mongering.
“The crime rates are nowhere near where they were 20 or 30 years ago,” said Olivia Lapeyrolerie, a political adviser who was formerly deputy press secretary to Mr De Blasio. “Not giving that context, which he knows better than most people, creates unnecessary panic.”
Mr Adams sometimes seems to recognize the need to add more nuance to some of his casual remarks.
He clarified in May that crime wasn’t the worst it had ever been, but said he had “never seen anything like it: the over-availability of guns, the ease of use of guns, and the comfort people get from carrying guns.” .” He sometimes talks about shootings and murders happening this year, but those comments often get less attention than the crime scene he visits.
The mayor is the first to admit that his ability to tackle crime will determine his mayoralty. In a recent interview on NBC’s “Nightly News” with Lester Holt, Mr. Adams rated himself as “incomplete” when it came to fighting crime during his first six months in office.
“I won’t be successful until every New Yorker feels safe,” he said.