Nassau County legislators honors NYPD Commissioner Keechant Sewell

Nassau County legislators honors NYPD Commissioner Keechant Sewell Credit: Howard Schnapp

In the face of crime rates that remain stubbornly high, NYPD commissioner Keechant Sewell has rolled out two high profile initiatives — special anti-gun units and a renewed focus on quality-of-life offenses — aimed at getting a handle on the violence hitting many parts of the city.

Wednesday, Sewell announced a citywide initiative to have cops focus on offenses such as group drinking on the street, boisterous parties and public urination, in an effort to combat shootings. As reported in Newsday, police analysis found a correlation between reports of such nuisances and shootings in the same vicinity.

 “We know from experience, as the weather gets warmer, that thirty percent of all shooting incidents are preceded by multiple reports of other lawbreaking and violations leading up to that violence,” NYPD Chief Michael LiPetri, head of police crime strategies said in a statement.

Earlier in the week, Mayor Eric Adams and Sewell touted the results of the new Neighborhood Safety Teams or units of specially trained cops, who in their first week of action made 31 arrests and seized 10 firearms. The teams are a major part of the city’s attempt to quell shootings, which so far this year are up nearly 18% over last year.

The gun violence problem was underscored Thursday when Sewell and Bronx District Attorney Darcel Clark announced the seizure of over 30 firearms, including two ghost guns, in a monthslong undercover operation that targeted two Bronx suspects.

“Guns are everywhere,” Clark said, standing before a table of the seized weapons. Clark said two men have been indicted in Operation Chopping Block on 242 charges of criminal sale of firearms, conspiracy and related offenses. Shootings are up 46% in the Bronx this year over 2021 and 148.6% over 2020, according to police data.

Sewell’s plan to go after quality-of-life offenses in what she said was a “precision” approach prompted some immediate pushback from civil libertary groups who saw it as a revival of the controversial “Broken Windows” approach to policing.

That strategy targeted small offenses as a way of preventing more serious crimes. But critics contend it targeted poorer, minority communities in the past.

“Broken windows policing is aggressive, violent, dangerous and undermines New Yorkers’s safety, especially Black, Latinx and other communities of color who are disproportionately targeted,” said Sala Cyril, spokeswoman for Communities United For Police Reform.

But NYPD Chief of Department Kenneth Corey said cops will target areas from which community complaints originate and often, police statistics show, they are largely minority.

“This is precision policing, we are doing here,” said Sewell Thursday about quality-of-life enforcement. “We are focused on the people, the places and things that lead to criminality and lead to violence.”

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