New York City Mayor Eric Adams acknowledged that he was putting cops from the specially trained Neighborhood Safety Teams in harm's way, but said it was necessary to get a handle on the violence. Credit: NYPD

As new NYPD anti-crime teams hit the streets, Mayor Eric Adams acknowledged Wednesday that those cops are in harm's way amid increased violence, and warned against interference with police activity.

Adams, NYPD Commissioner Keechant Sewell and other police brass announced the official rollout of the specially trained Neighborhood Safety Teams, or NST, during a news conference at the police academy in College Point.

The teams of five officers and one sergeant are heading to 30 of the city’s high-violence precincts, as well as four public housing areas.

Adams said the teams are different from the now-disbanded plainclothes anti-crime units. They wear special outfits identifying them as cops and have training in constitutionally-protected policing techniques and de-escalation methods. At the same time, Adams added, the job of the safety teams is fraught with risk.

"This is a dangerous assignment … ," the mayor said. "You don’t put your men and women on the front line of a dangerous assignment without giving them the tools, support … and make sure they have the emotional intelligence to make the right decisions, while they are out there doing the job, putting themselves in front of the fire to protect New Yorkers."

Sewell and other NYPD officials said NST officers have been given weeks of training to reduce the chance that they would make unlawful or unconstitutional stop-and-frisks, a problem that troubled the department in the past and led to a settlement of a major federal lawsuit in 2013. The teams are also tasked with working with community groups and police community affairs officers.

Adams said he expected New Yorkers to safely document with smartphones police activity on the street but warned that anyone inserting themselves into a potentially violent situation and verbally abusing officers will face harsh consequences.

"If an officer is on the ground wrestling someone with a gun, they should not have to worry about someone standing over them with a camera … ," Adams said. "If your iPhone cannot capture that picture with you seeing at a safe distance, then you should upgrade your iPhone. Stop being on top of my police officers while they are carrying out their jobs. That is not acceptable and won’t be tolerated."

A City Hall spokesman didn’t respond to an email request for clarification about what Adams believes is an appropriate way for a civilian to document police encounters.

The NST units are the most visible component of Adams and Sewell’s plan to cut down gun violence that has steadily climbed over the past two years to levels not seen since 2006. So far in 2022, shootings are up 10.7% over 2021, and 58.4% over 2020. Adams said the spike in violence is unacceptable and making life less livable for residents.

"Our city has reached the point where everything and anything goes," said the mayor, referring to everything from rampant store thefts to gun crimes. "We have just reached the point in this city where the quality of life has eroded. New Yorkers don’t want that to happen."

On Monday and Tuesday, the first NST teams hit the streets in the Bronx and made their first major arrest: a 23 year-old suspect out on bail on an attempted murder case and allegedly carrying a 9 mm handgun. A spokesman for Bronx District Attorney Darcel Clark said Wednesday that prosecutors had asked for the defendant to be remanded but a judge set bail at $100,000 cash or bond.

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