President Donald Trump is again threatening to send federal agents to New York City if local authorities don't stop a surge of violence that has left at least four people dead and more than 50 people shot since Friday.
Trump, who's running for re-election on a law-and-order agenda as a counterweight to the police and criminal justice reform movement, reacted to the news of the mayhem in his hometown Sunday night on Twitter.
“Law and Order,” Trump wrote, directing his message at the city’s Democratic mayor, Bill de Blasio. “If (he) can’t do it, we will!”
De Blasio has consistently and in no uncertain terms refuted the need for presidential assistance in combatting the spike in violence. On Monday, he dismissed Trump’s tweet as “bluster,” telling reporters that a recent uptick in gun arrests was a hopeful sign that the NYPD “will turn this tide.” The mayor has blamed the coronavirus crisis in part for creating a "perfect storm." He also says New York City and the NYPD can handle the violent uptick without fed help.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo also says he believes New York City has the manpower to manage the spike in gun violence; he previously said he had spoken to Trump and told the president directly that an influx of federal agents wasn't necessary.
But the violence continues unabated. According to police, 51 people were shot from Friday through Sunday, at least four of whom died from their injuries. Another man died after a physical altercation, police said. Eight people were shot and five people were killed over the same span last year.
In the last four weeks, shooting incidents in the city are up nearly triple versus the same period last year, continuing a pattern seen since early June as the city's coronavirus lockdown began to ease and the NYPD shifted its anti-crime tactics.
Trump has used violent spikes in Democratic-led cities such as New York, Chicago and Philadelphia to justify claims that recent reforms and cuts to police budgets have handcuffed officers and allowed criminals to run amok. His re-election campaign has been airing farcical television commercials suggesting no one will be there to answer 911 calls if his Democratic rival, former Vice President Joe Biden, is elected president.
“The only thing rotten is Trump’s mind,” Neidhardt tweeted in response.
Trump, a Republican who grew up in Queens and built his namesake tower on Manhattan's chic Fifth Avenue, backed off a threat last month to send federal agents to New York City to deal with protesters and increased violence, as he had in Portland, Oregon. De Blasio had said the city would take legal action to stop such a move.
Trump's emphatic loyalty to the men and women in blue — “We love our police!” he's bellowed at rallies — and his aversion to some of the many reforms enacted across the U.S. after the Minneapolis police killing of George Floyd in May has translated into increased support from the law enforcement community.
On Friday, Trump received the endorsement of New York City’s largest police union, the Police Benevolent Association. At a ceremony with the union's leaders at his New Jersey golf course, Trump said recent changes to state and city laws governing officer conduct and accountability have “totally taken away their incentive.”
New York state lawmakers in June repealed a decades-old law that had kept police disciplinary records a secret. They also banned officers from using chokeholds. City lawmakers went a step further, ordering officers to avoid the torso while making an arrest.
“They’ve taken away their lives, in a sense, because they don’t allow them to do their job,” Trump said.
New York’s recent crime wave has upended years of at-or-near record lows that had city leaders touting it as the “Safest Big City in America.” Still, it remains far safer than in the early 1990s, when there were more than 2,000 killings per year.
This year, the city has seen an 82.1 percent increase in shooting incidents and an 88.5 percent increase in shooting victims over last year, according to police. More than 1,000 people have been shot in the city from Jan. 1 through Sunday, police said. Homicides have climbed more than 30 percent, to 259 as of Sunday from 199 at the same point last year.
Cuomo has turned his attention to statewide reform. He says in New York City gun violence, "over 90 percent of the victims are Black and Brown. You want to talk about social justice, you want to talk about civil rights, you want to talk about social equity -- how do you explain that? It's not just New York City."
In cities like Albany, Rochester, Buffalo and Syracuse, the governor says shootings injuries are up 70 percent year-to-date. Unless changes are made at the local level, Cuomo said, the uptick in violence cannot be addressed statewide.
Cuomo intends to send a letter to New York's 500 jurisdictions to continue police and community safety reforms. Cuomo said his letter explains "that it is imperative that we address this urgent crisis. I understand it's complicated, I understand it's difficult. I also understand people are dying."
The governor's letter follows his June 12 executive order requiring local governments and agencies to "develop a plan that reinvents and modernizes police strategies." Communities must create and implement a plan by April 1, the governor said, or they will not be eligible for state funding.
The plans must address force by police officers, crowd management, community policing, implicit bias awareness training, de-escalation training and practices, restorative justice practices, and community-based outreach.