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Shea cautious but optimistic the NYPD can stem spike in gun violence

NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea, shown earlier this month,

NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea, shown earlier this month, said Monday that solving the spike in city gun violence is going to take time.   Credit: AP/John Minchillo

Gun violence rocking New York City won’t go away anytime soon, NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea said Monday. But the city’s top cop sounded optimistic that the department he leads will eventually slow a plague of shootings that has caused so much bloodshed in 2020.

“It is going to be situation that takes some time to turn around,” Shea said in an NY1 interview about the spike in shootings. “I am confident it is going to turn around but it is not going to be in the [short term].”

Despite an initiative Shea announced Friday with Mayor Bill de Blasio to tackle the spate of gun violence, this past weekend saw 21 shootings and 23 victims, the NYPD said.

For the week ending Sunday, the city recorded a total of 64 shootings with 77 people wounded, according to NYPD statistics, increases of 220% and 206% respectively over the same period in 2019.

For the year to date, shootings are running 69% above 2019. If the current pace continues, the number of wounded, currently at 854, could by the end of the week surpass the total of 922 shooting victims in all of last year.

Homicides are running at 24% above mid-July 2019, and other crime categories are showing mixed results, with rapes, felonious assaults and grand larcenies down from the same time period last year. But burglaries and auto thefts remain on the rise, a trend that has continued since the coronavirus pandemic hit in March.

Shea said the NYPD has sent more officers to hot spot areas in the city and also worked with so-called “violence interrupters" to convince gang members and young people to reject shooting as a solution for problems and disputes.

The commissioner also noted that cops need help from other parts of the criminal justice system. Shea cited the need for fully operational courts and seated grand juries to assure swift justice comes to the small criminal subculture the police commissioner said has fueled the violence.

During an interview Monday on Fox News’s “Good Day New York,” Shea didn’t hold back in criticizing unnamed public officials for what he said was their emboldening of criminals by chipping away at some of the tools cops need. While he wasn’t specific, Shea was referring to the new City Council chokehold law that criminalizes officers' use of a knee in a way that constricts a person’s diaphragm during an arrest.

Shea’s pointed criticism was a repeat of comments he made last week to police commanders during a CompStat meeting. Shea twice used a mild expletive — rare for the police commissioner — while vowing in the meeting to push back at those he believes are not publicly supporting his officers.

Asked about Shea’s CompStat remarks at a separate news conference Monday, de Blasio said he had talked to the commissioner and didn’t think the language used was “constructive.”

“I’ve understood it was important for him to express some of those concerns," the mayor said. "But now it’s time to move forward.” 

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