After another deadly weekend in New York City that left five people killed and dozens more injured, NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea says he’s shifting schedules in an attempt to put more officers on the street even while city council members have slashed the department’s overtime budget.
It’s the latest attempt by the NYPD to address the surge in shootings, but critics say those efforts have been blunted by the decision by Shea back in June to end the NYPD’s plainclothes division, which was responsible for many of the arrests for illegal gun possession in the city, but also raised the ire of some residents who accused the division of heavy-handed tactics and cited a higher-than-average rate of fatal shootings among assigned officers.
So far Shea’s standing by his decision to shut down the division, and in a new interview with NY1, blames the rise in shootings on “knuckleheads with guns” who are showing up at large gatherings.
“The frustrating part is that it’s 99.9 percent just people trying to get outside, have some fun, and a couple knuckleheads with a gun show up,” he said.
The police commissioner also said the gun violence is often gang-related, which sometimes leads to victims not cooperating.
In part, he believes this is because of distrust to police or the system, but said usually after a few hours or a day victims may speak out.
Shea said he is not at all satisfied with the progress made to tame gun violence in the city.
“Am I satisfied? I could be anything but satisfied at this point and time. That’s not to say that the men and women of this police department aren’t out there — they’re out there working, they’re working hard. But it’s an extremely frustrating time,” he said.
According to NYPD statistics, the homicide clearance rate in the second quarter of this year (April, May, and June) was just 50%, down more than 10% from the second quarter of 2019. That number may also be somewhat misleading, because it includes arrests for homicides that took place before the second quarter. An arrest made in May for a homicide last October counts as a cleared case for the second quarter of 2020, as opposed to the fourth quarter of 2019.
In other words, I’m not convinced when Shea says that many victims speak out after a couple of hours or a few days. All too often, both victims and witnesses remain silent, in part because of distrust of police, but also because of fear of retaliation. Unsolved cases create an ever-worsening spiral of cause-and-effect: both criminals and the broader community believe that shootings can happen without consequence, emboldening gang members and leading community members to become less likely to speak up because they worry about what might happen to them if they do.
One thing is clear: New York City cannot protect its residents, and the gun control laws that the city has had in place for decades is only making it difficult for law-abiding citizens to protect themselves. The city’s gun licensing laws clearly have had no impact on violent criminals, who use the illicit market to illegally acquire their firearms. It’s those would-be legal gun owners who feel the impact of the city’s gun control laws, which require them to pay hundreds of dollars in non-refundable fees, provide all kinds of personal information (including tax forms), and wait for months on end to be told whether or not they have permission to exercise their Second Amendment rights.
Knuckleheads with guns may be driving the city’s gun violence, but they’re not applying for a gun license. It’ll never happen, but one of the best things the city could do to help get a handle on its out-of-control crime problem would be to recognize the right to keep and bear arms and to treat it like a real right, not a privilege to be doled out to a chosen few.