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State and local leaders searching for ways to stem surge in NYC shootings

NYPD Chief of Department Terence Monahan, on Monday,

NYPD Chief of Department Terence Monahan, on Monday, discusses the recent spike in shootings across New York City.   Credit: Jeff Bachner

A bloody toll exacted from weekend shootings had local and state officials searching Monday for ways to stem gun violence in New York City, now at levels last seen in the 1990s.

During a crime briefing for news reporters, NYPD Chief of Department Terence Monahan and Chief Michael LiPetri spelled out the grim statistics for June, when shootings spiked by 130% over the same period in 2019, with 270 victims wounded. June saw a total of 18 homicides, compared to 12 at the same time last year, although overall crime dropped by 3.3%.

The bloodshed continued through the July Fourth weekend with 11 killed and 64 wounded as a result of 45 shootings, Monahan said.

"Imagine if there weren’t cops out there," Monahan asked, in reference to the push by critics, including some at ongoing protests at City Hall Park, to cut funding for the NYPD. "Just imagine how bad it would be if we abolished the police."

Like Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, Mayor Bill de Blasio has expressed concern about the spike in gun violence but, along with NYPD officials, has attributed it to the COVID-19 pandemic's affect on the court and criminal justice systems.

Monahan noted that because of the ongoing pandemic, cases involving gun offenses and other crimes cannot be processed.

“COVID plays a huge portion of it, that is why the courts are closed," he said. "Four months of no courts open because you can’t get people together to process a case, so you can move cases along, so we can have grand juries."

Other key factors emboldening criminals, Monahan said, was the anti-cop rhetoric after the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis in police custody and the “insanity” of a recently passed City Council bill. The measure, along with criminalizing police chokeholds, risks cops being charged if their knee inadvertently touches a suspect’s back during a scuffle.

During his coronavirus briefing in Manhattan on Monday, Cuomo reportedly called the uptick in gun violence “horrific” and said communities hit hardest by the pandemic are most affected by the shootings.

Nearly every June shooting victim — 97% — were minorities, said LiPetri, head of the NYPD's office of crime control strategies. All of July’s victims so far have been from minority communities, he said, adding that many shootings were gang- and drug-related with many drive-by incidents.

Cuomo said the State Police were working on strategies with the NYPD and he planned to speak with New York State Chief Judge Janet DiFiore about the issue.

According to Monahan, NYPD Police Commissioner Dermot Shea met with the five city district attorneys and DiFiore on Monday. But because courts remain closed, it would be more than a month, Aug.10, before grand juries could be convened to hear cases, Monahan said.

“We need to turn this around, we need to get people in every community out with their cops saying, 'let us put an end to this right now,' ” the chief said. “We need some help."

He also asked the public to ignore rhetoric from protesters camped in City Hall Park.

“Are these the loud voices we should be following, that the city should be following? Monahan asked. “I hope not.”

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