NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Mayor Bill de Blasio is defending his policies in the face of skyrocketing crime in New York City.
It’s a dramatic example of why some New Yorkers say they don’t feel safe on the streets of New York City: one day last week, just before noon, a 28-year-old woman was stopped in her tracks by a man with a box cutter on West 51st Street in Hell’s Kitchen. He threatened to slash her, then reached into her jacket and grabbed her cell phone.
It’s no wonder why a neighbor, a mother of two young children, says she’s thinking of moving.
“I grew up here my whole life. It’s definitely changed. I do not feel safe anymore. Honestly, I felt safer in the ’80s,” she said. “I just feel like crime is up more. I mean they say it isn’t, but that’s BS.”
Actually, crime is up more. Robberies, like the cell phone snatch, are up nearly 39% — from 943 last January to 1,290 last month. Shootings are up nearly 29% from 52 to 67. Transit crime is up nearly 30%, and car theft is up 72%. Burglaries are up more than 20% and larceny is up nearly 11%.
Only two of the seven major categories are down — murder is down nearly 21% and rape is down 18%.
New Yorkers are feeling it.
“I don’t feel safe at all,” one woman said.
“Since Bloomberg left office, the city has changed,” another woman said.
“I’ve definitely noticed a little more tension, just going from my day-to-day stuff in the last year or two,” one man said.
The 106 Precinct in Ozone Park, Queens, saw the highest jump in crime; it’s up nearly 85% compared to this time last year.
“It’s scary when it’s happening right in your neighborhood,” one woman told CBS2’s Ali Bauman.
“The assault on just normal people, everyday people trying to go about their business on the trains, elderly people, I mean, it’s becoming an epidemic,” another woman said.
When CBS2 political reporter Marcia Kramer asked de Blasio about people feeling unsafe, the mayor insisted, as usual, New York City is the safest big city in America.
“There are a lot of people out there who are fearmongers who are trying to denigrate New York City,” he said.
But what really set the mayor off was a charge from PBA President Pat Lynch that the city is facing a public safety emergency caused by the mayor. Lynch says the rise in crime is “the result of failed leadership and a political culture that denigrates and devalues the work police officers do.”
De Blasio: “If the head of the police union or anyone else wants to saw that this city is going in the wrong direction, they are rooting against New York City. They are wishing New York City to fail, and that’s for their own political reasons.”
Kramer: “But he’s basically saying you haven’t supported the police over the years.”
De Blasio: “Marcia, there are some people rooting against New York City. Let’s be clear … That doesn’t mean the work is done. There’s lots more work to do, but it’s the safest big city in America. That’s just a fact.”
Police Commissioner Dermot Shea and the mayor said they’ve raised concerns to state lawmakers about New York’s new bail laws, which took effect Jan. 1.
“We have seen examples of people getting arrested post-Jan. 1 and then getting re-arrested,” Shea said.
“We saw things emanating from this law starting to take effect months ago,” de Blasio said. “We’re in dialogue with leaders in Albany about those concerns and we want to move forward.”
CBS2 urban affairs expert Mark Peters says it’s too soon to tell what’s driving the uptick in crime.
“There’s no doubt that we need to amend the bail reform statute, and we’ve certainly seen some anecdotal examples of why we need to change the bail reform statute, but I don’t think that anybody can seriously suggest that the rise in crime in January can be laid at the feet of the bail reform statute,” he said.
Shea says the NYPD hopes to address the rise in crime with a new youth strategy to revamp how cops and kids interact. The goal is to prevent kids from going down the wrong path.