Mayor de Blasio, do something about the deaths in our streets

Thirty years ago, The Post called on Mayor David Dinkins to do something about soaring violent crime. He did. How about you, Mayor de Blasio?

Today’s crime numbers are nothing like as bad as back on Sept. 7, 1990, but the direction is the same. And New Yorkers learned in the years that followed that it is entirely possible to “do something” and make a world of difference.

De Blasio was around then, indeed was a junior Dinkins staffer (meeting his future wife on the job). So he, too, knows a turnaround is eminently possible — with sufficient leadership and political will.

That summer, the city saw a rash of drive-by shootings and high-profile robberies — including the fatal mugging of young Brian Watkins, in town from Utah with his family to attend the US Open.

Dinkins had won Gracie Mansion while vowing to be “the toughest mayor on crime that New York has ever seen,” but he plainly wasn’t delivering. The Post begged him to act.

He didn’t move quickly: He appointed a commission to figure out how to move ahead. But it eventually came up with recommendations, and Dinkins enacted them, working closing with City Council Speaker Peter Vallone Sr. and persuading Gov. Mario Cuomo and the state Legislature to do their part.

Starting in 1991, the Safe Streets, Safe City initiative enlarged the NYPD by more than 6,000 cops, while also bolstering the courts. As department veteran Ray Kelly took over as police commissioner in 1992, murders and other crime started to drop.

Meanwhile, another policing revolution began underground, as NYC Transit Police Chief Bill Bratton shifted to the “broken windows” approach of refusing to tolerate low-level crimes like farebeating — which proved to drastically boost safety in the subways.

Dinkins’ one-year delay in launching Safe Streets, Safe City likely cost him re-election in 1993. (The 1991 Crown Heights riots, when the NYPD for days seemed impotent, didn’t help.) But new Mayor Rudy Giuliani made Bratton his commish, the NYPD adopted CompStat to focus resources and leadership on crime hot spots — and what’s now a decades-long victory over violence was fully under way.

That victory, incidentally, didn’t just reduce crime: Incarceration rates soon fell just as steadily — because no one goes to jail or prison for a crime that doesn’t happen.

Yet these tremendous gains are now at risk: Shootings in June hit the highest monthly total since 1996, while the Fourth of July weekend brought several dozen more, plus nearly a dozen homicides.

And the mayor is throwing up his hands: On Monday, he basically blamed the coronavirus lockdowns for creating a “cabin fever” crime wave and also citing the perps walking the streets because courts are largely closed.

NYPD Chief of Department Terence Monahan also blames the state’s no-bail law and the general rise in animosity toward cops since the George Floyd killing, as well as the City Council’s new law criminalizing police use of chokeholds, because it’s been broadened to theoretically cover almost any physical struggle with a perp.

Fact is, all that and more likely plays into it, and several of those issues need addressing. But the trend has a momentum all its own, and won’t reverse unless the city’s leaders show they’re serious about putting public safety first.

That requires a series of steps to show resolve against violent crime, such as:

  • Reversing Police Commissioner Dermot Shea’s decision last month to shut down the NYPD’s plainclothes anti-crime units — a move he himself warned could prove risky. Shootings took off as soon as Shea pulled the last anti-gun cops off that duty. Send them back, now.
  • Revise the chokehold law so officers have clear, practical guidelines on restraining perps. (Any City Council member who objects should head down to the Police Academy to demonstrate what he or she would do when a perp resists arrest.)
  • End COVID “compassionate” jail releases. The mayor’s minions plainly used this initiative to further empty out Rikers, and with the virus largely under control in the city, that excuse no longer holds. Do better at social distancing, instead.
  • With whatever mix of demands and charm it takes, push the Legislature to make the obvious fix to the “no-bail” law: Give judges the discretion to order the remand of clearly dangerous perps, as well as habitual re-offenders.
  • Quit ordering the NYPD to hold off on enforcing the law because you’re worried lawbreakers will take it the wrong way. For example, no more winking at illegal fireworks, or pretending you can solve the problem just by going after the dealers.
  • Community leaders and politicians, starting with you, need to be clear that resisting arrest and taunting police is unacceptable. The “defund” movement has become a byword for “delegitimize” — a license for people to ignore or antagonize the police. It will only make such confrontations worse.

The NYPD has performed miracles in 30 years, saving lives and making us one of the safest big cities in America. Don’t squander that, Mr. Mayor.

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