Plagued by a spate of high-profile incidents of violence during his first three weeks in office, New York City Mayor Eric Adams on Monday laid out an ambitious blueprint to combat gun violence – from increasing officers on patrol and combating the influx of guns into the city, to encouraging prosecutors to move forward earlier with gun charges and creating jobs for residents at high risk.
The blueprint comes in the wake of the death of an New York Police Department officer responding to a domestic incident late last week. Five NYPD officers have been shot this month, police said, with Jason Rivera the first to lose his life.
“This is not just a plan for the future – it is a plan for right now,” Adams said at a news conference. “Gun violence is a public health crisis. There is no time to wait. We must act. The sea of violence comes from many rivers. We must dam every river that feeds this greater crisis.”
The plan will leverage the New York Police Department with “targeted, precision policing,” focusing on the 30 precincts where 80% of the violence occurs, and expand the anti-violence Crisis Management System (CMS) to address the symptoms of gun violence, Adams said.
The plan also calls for more state and federal resources, the mayor said.
As Adams has previously mentioned, he will put more NYPD officers on the streets and have fewer officers on desk staffing.
Crime in New York reached historic lows over the past three decades before numbers started to go up in 2020, a spate that has continued over the last two years and mirrors what is being felt in big cities around the country. While it’s early in the year, the trend has continued through the first three weeks of the year, with the city seeing a 38% increase in major crimes through January 24, compared to the same period last year.
To help address this, the mayor said he wants to expand the partnership between the NYPD and state police, honing in on public transportation facilities to stop the flow of illegal guns into the city. Spot checks at locations, such as the Port Authority and other bus and train stations, will be critical to this effort, he said.
Additional resources for the Gun Violence Suppression Division, the existing gun seizure unit, will help police continue to seize illegal guns and build cases against illegal gun carriers, traffickers and sellers.
New technology will help the NYPD identify suspects carrying illegal guns, adding another tool to help build cases against traffickers, Adams said. Deeper coordination with the FBI and other federal partners to track down gun traffickers will be critical.
Adams, a former NYPD captain, had already revealed some details of his plan. He told CNN on Sunday the city will “immediately” reinstate a “newer version of modified plainclothes anti-gun unit,” a step he endorsed during his campaign.
The new plainclothes unit of the NYPD will be on the streets within a few weeks, Adams said Monday.
Plainclothes policing units have been criticized by some as an outdated policing practice, and the New York Police Department reassigned many such officers in 2020. However, Adams, who took office in the new year, said his team “has done the proper analysis and now we’re going to deploy that.”
Adams spent the weekend underscoring the need to address rising crime and gun violence after NYPD Officer Rivera, 22, was fatally shot while responding to a domestic incident in Harlem on Friday evening.
Officer Wilbert Mora, 27, was also shot and remained in “critical condition” as of Sunday, the NYPD said on Twitter. He was expected to be transferred Sunday evening from Harlem Hospital to NYU Langone Medical Center, the department said.
The suspect in that shooting, Lashawn McNeil, died Monday, the NYPD told CNN.
Rivera and Mora were the fourth and fifth NYPD officers to be shot since the start of the year, though NYPD officers have not been the only victims of gun violence: An 11-month-old girl was shot in the face, caught in crossfire in the Bronx. The shooting Wednesday left her in critical condition.
Incoming NYPD Commissioner Keechant Sewell has asked precinct commanders to select candidates for the modified plainclothes anti-gun unit, according to a city official. The unit’s focus would be getting illegal guns off the street, and those selected would have to go through specific training, the official said Sunday.
The Legal Aid Society, Brooklyn Defender Services, The Bronx Defenders, the Neighborhood Defender Service of Harlem and Queens Defenders welcomed some of the planned measures, including job development, but criticized “Mayor Adams’ focus on discredited punitive and surveillance-based strategies, including his call for additional rollbacks to bail and discovery reform, amendments to Raise the Age, increased use of facial recognition and reinstatement of the NYPD’s historically racist Anti-Crime Unit.”
“We call on the Legislature to reject the Mayor’s wrongheaded proposals to rely on discredited punitive approaches and focus on investing in our communities,” the organizations said in a release.
Plan to focus on flow of guns
The larger plan will work to address “the underlying reasons you’re seeing crime in our city,” Adams told CNN.
Among them is the flow of guns into the city that officials have spotlighted since Friday’s shooting. According to authorities, the gun used by the suspect – who was shot by a third NYPD officer as he tried to flee and remains in critical condition – was a Glock 45 stolen in Baltimore in 2017.
“We have to stop the flow of guns,” the mayor said. “We are removing thousands of guns off our streets, and it appears as though for every gun we remove from the street, five are coming in. That is unacceptable.”
In addition to Adams’ announcement, New York Gov. Kathy Hochul announced Sunday the first meeting of an “Interstate Task Force on Illegal Guns,” aimed at bringing together federal authorities and state law enforcement officials across the region to address the “urgent issue of illegal guns.”
More than 50 representatives from the New York State Police, the NYPD, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) and nine Northeastern states will meet Wednesday to discuss the initiative, including “ways to share intelligence, tracing tools, strategies and tactics across jurisdictions,” a statement from the governor said.
A focus on mental health
Aside from the reintroduction of plainclothes police units, Adams said the city would partner mental health professionals with police personnel to respond to incidents in the subway system.
Adams’ announcement comes just over a week after 40-year-old Michelle Alyssa Go died after being pushed onto the tracks of an incoming train at the Times Square-42nd Street subway station in what Commissioner Sewell said was an “unprovoked” incident.
Police and the mental health professionals will work as a team, Adams said, to “move out the disorder that’s clearly in the subway system in our city.” Together, these teams will be “more proactive and not just reactive,” the mayor added.
“We should not wait for someone to carry out a dangerous action when we know they are on the station in the first place,” he said. “Immediately when you see a dangerous person there, mental health professionals will be deployed and that person will receive the proper care and removed from our subway system.”
Making gun prosecutions a priority
The mayor asked New York City’s five district attorneys to take several actions going forward to help curb gun violence and gun-related crimes.
“If a district attorney’s office pursues a charge related to gang or gun violence, moving it to the front of the docket – much the same way hospitals triage patients with life-threatening conditions ahead of those less in need – it would serve as a crucial step towards getting guns off our streets, faster,” Adams said.
He also proposed a weekly meeting between all district attorneys, the NYPD commissioner and the deputy mayor of public safety.
Adams wants the courts and chief judge to increase the number of judges who are part of the state’s gun violence initiative.
“We need every judge we can get hearing these cases and helping us move through this immense backlog,” Adams said.
Plans for job creation
Another component of Adams’ blueprint is the creation of jobs for people at risk by working with the state government and labor organizations to pass legislation “that will allow the City to require those doing business with us to hire New Yorkers from targeted communities, ensuring residents have access to good jobs and apprentice opportunities,” the blueprint states.
“The Adams Administration will also use the City’s enormous purchasing power to create job opportunities for New Yorkers because we know the best antidote to crime is a career,” the plan states.
CNN’s Eric Levenson, Mark Morales and Shimon Prokupecz contributed to this report.