As city shootings continue at a rapid pace, NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea said Tuesday that unless his department gets some "tools in the tool box," the end of the pandemic will not mean an end to the violence.
In an interview on Fox 5's "Good Day New York," Shea said cops are trying to fight crime using fewer options because of bills passed to address criminal justice issues and funding of police.
"Covid is going to end, and we are still going to have this problem," Shea said, referring to the latest police data showing shootings up 64%, and victims up nearly 60% over the same period in 2020, which had been the worst year since 2006.
"We need some tools in the tool box to keep New Yorkers safe," Shea said, "and right now that tool box is a little depleted."
Criminal justice and budget reforms in the past year have cut NYPD police overtime, reduced bail requirements and trimmed money for some police academy classes, Shea and other department brass have noted. Mayor Bill de Blasio has attributed the rising violence, in part, to the coronavirus pandemic.
The announcement that state courts are set to reopen will create a "culture of consequences" for criminals responsible for the violence, de Blasio said Tuesday.
Bail reform that took effect in 2020, along with restricted access to the courts because of the pandemic, have led to dangerous suspects being allowed out on the streets, Shea has said repeatedly in recent months. He is an advocate of having state judges detain suspects based on their potential community threat, something the federal court system already allows.
"I think we have the best cops in the world, they put their lives on the line every day," Shea said on Fox 5. "But we also need tools and this is the piece that is incredibly frustrating for those in law enforcement, we see these repeat criminals go back out [without bail]."
But amid all the pessimism, Shea did see a reason to be optimistic — the influx of more than 800 new cops expected by early summer from the next police academy class.
Richard Aborn, head of the New York Citizens Crime Commission, agreed with Shea that a spike in violence during the pandemic will remain after it ends.
"I think Covid is no longer the driving force," Aborn said of the continuing rise in shootings. To remedy things, Aborn said, judges must have discretion to decide whether to keep dangerous suspects in custody.
"There is no reason not to give judges discretion," said Aborn, adding that police overtime money should be restored so more cops can be put on patrol.
In an effort to again address the violence, de Blasio on Tuesday announced funding for a new 116th Precinct and community center in Southeast Queens, and an effort to coordinate "community, cops and court" to reduce crime.
Other measures are an expansion of the Saturday Night Lights program to open up recreation facilities for teens, as well as increasing summer youth employment, the mayor said.