Mayor Eric Adams has made big promises to curb shootings in New York City, after fears about a pandemic crime surge played a central role in his mayoral campaign and several high-profile acts of violence cast a somber shadow over his early days on the job.
During Adams’ first year in office, murders have dropped 12.5%, from 473 from Jan. 1-Dec. 18, 2021 to 414 so far in 2022, according to police data. Shootings have declined by 17.5%, from 1,523 incidents during the same period last year to 1,257 this year. But while the numbers are far below the historic highs of the 1990s, they’re still above pre-pandemic levels.
Shortly after his inauguration, Adams unveiled “The Blueprint to End Gun Violence,” a sweeping plan to address a spike in shootings in 2020 and 2021. The 15-page document includes dozens of proposals to stop the “sea of gun violence,” as Adams calls it, with recommendations for various city agencies, state lawmakers and Congress.
Gothamist looked back at Adams’ plan to see which goals his administration has accomplished in his first year in office and where his pledges fell short. We found that the mayor delivered on more than a dozen of his promises, at least in part. He either didn’t follow through or couldn’t muster enough support for several others, including calls for state lawmakers to walk back recent criminal justice reforms. Many were hard to measure objectively, like his promise to reallocate mental health resources “where they will matter most.” Some, like calls for federal legislation, fall outside Adams’ powers as mayor. Here’s a status update on some of the mayor’s most significant proposals from the plan:
Bring back plainclothes NYPD units disbanded under de Blasio to track down illegal guns
Fulfilled: In March, the NYPD started rolling out so-called “Neighborhood Safety Teams,” which proactively search for guns instead of responding to 911 calls like most patrol officers. These units are now operating in 30 patrol precincts and four public housing patrol areas, according to the mayor’s office. But while the teams’ purported focus is getting guns off the streets, City & State reported in April that the majority of the teams’ early arrests were for low-level crimes, such as driving with a suspended license. In July, officials said the teams had recovered just 158 of the more than 3,700 guns seized by police in the first six months of the year. The police department got rid of similar plainclothes units in 2020 amid citywide protests against police violence, because members were responsible for a disproportionate number of killings and received large numbers of complaints.
More officers on patrol
Fulfilled: The NYPD has shuffled assignments to get more officers out of desk jobs and onto the streets and subways. More than 1,000 extra officers have been sent onto subway trains and platforms this year, often working overtime in addition to patrol shifts in their assigned precincts. The department also now requires its executives to spend time patrolling the subways. But while a larger percentage of the department is now patrolling the city, the NYPD has struggled to keep up with an exodus of officers. Nearly 3,500 officers had retired or resigned by the end of November, compared to 2,006 in all of 2018, according to data from the Police Pension Fund.
Search for guns at city entry points to stop illegal firearms from coming in through the “Iron Pipeline”
Fulfilled: In February, Port Authority Police started doing random bag checks for passengers coming from out of state on coach buses. Some civil liberties advocates criticized the move, saying it violates people’s rights. In October, Adams signed a local law requiring the city to issue an annual report on illegal firearms brought into the city, as well as recommendations for how to stanch the flow of guns.
Bolster the Gun Violence Suppression Division
Fulfilled: The blueprint describes this NYPD team as a “highly specialized unit” that focuses on seizing illegal guns and building cases against the people carrying, trafficking and selling them. About 20 officers have been transferred to the police unit, a staffing increase of approximately 9.5% according to the mayor’s office.
Empower community-based violence prevention groups
Partially fulfilled: While Adams has voiced support for community-based programs working to prevent violence, he has not allocated any additional funding for the Crisis Management System, which was created during the de Blasio administration. In June, Adams appointed a friend who leads one the city’s violence interruption groups, Andre T. Mitchell of Man Up!, to co-chair a gun violence prevention task force. But the so-called “gun violence prevention czar” was given neither budget nor staff. Mitchell’s position is unpaid. This fall, the city recruited violence interruption groups and other nonprofits to provide mentoring and other programs at 138 schools where students are most at risk of getting involved in violence.
Expand the Summer Youth Employment Program
Fulfilled: Adams secured a record-breaking 100,000 summer jobs for city youth this year, compared to about 75,000 last year and just 35,000 in 2020. The mayor’s office says 90% of participants lived in what the city considers “high-need” neighborhoods. The program is frequently touted as a tool to prevent teens at risk of committing crimes from resorting to violence during the summer months, and researchers estimate that it saves about 20 lives each year. However, just 934 participants in the program had prior contact with the criminal justice system.
Expand hospital-based violence intervention programs
Partially fulfilled, with help from the state: These programs partner hospital staff and community organizations to help gun violence victims heal from the trauma of a shooting. They also aim to stop victims and their loved ones from retaliating. Gov. Kathy Hochul announced in July that the state had allocated $9.1 million for nonprofits and hospitals working to prevent gun violence. A chunk of the funding went to hospitals in each of the five boroughs. While Adams had hoped to expand the program to 10 additional hospitals, his office says the city has so far partnered with nine and is seeking one more partner.
Reallocate funding for mental health services “where they will matter most”
Hard to measure: It’s subjective to determine where resources “matter most,” but Adams has made several investments in the city’s mental health response. The B-HEARD program, which sends unarmed mental health clinicians to some 911 calls instead of police, has expanded since Adams took office and now operates 16 hours a day in 15 of the NYPD’s 77 precincts. But the latest budget cut funding for the program by more than $12 million. As part of the mayor’s subway safety plan, the city has also deployed outreach teams to offer housing and mental health services to people experiencing homelessness and mental health crises on public transit. But the city is still grappling with a shortage of psychiatric hospital beds, supportive housing and mental health professionals.
Hospitalize people who cannot take care of themselves and refuse treatment, if a doctor and judge recommend it
Partially fulfilled: Adams has directed first responders to take people to the hospital for a mental health evaluation if they pose a danger to themselves or others — including if they don’t seem to be able to attend to their basic needs. The late November announcement is just the latest in a series of attempts by the mayor to get people experiencing homelessness and mental health crises off the city’s streets and subways. The mayor has also asked legislators to update state law to make it clear that these strategies are legal. Many advocates and those who have been hospitalized involuntarily say they violate people’s civil liberties and that police are not equipped to handle these types of encounters.
Identify a dedicated Anti-Gun Violence Liaison in every city agency
Fulfilled: Each agency now has an anti-gun violence liaison, according to the mayor’s office. Several dozen agency leaders have also been meeting since June as part of a Gun Violence Prevention Task Force to brainstorm strategies to curb violence in communities with high rates of shootings.
Allow judges to take a defendant’s dangerousness into account when deciding whether to hold them in jail
Not fulfilled: Adams has repeatedly urged lawmakers to add a dangerousness standard to the state’s bail laws. That would allow judges to consider if they think someone accused of a crime poses a danger to the public when deciding whether to set bail. But the liberal majority in the statehouse has not budged, citing concerns that it could be applied disproportionately to certain groups, including people of color and people with low incomes.
Allow prosecutors to charge 16 and 17-year-olds as adults if they are arrested on a gun charge and don’t tell law enforcement where they got the gun.
Not fulfilled: The state did not change this aspect of the raise the age law, which was passed in 2017 to prevent 16 and 17-year-olds accused of crimes from automatically being tried as adults. Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins laughed off the mayor’s proposals to alter the statute in January 2022. “It’s very easy for us to say, ‘claw back this, don’t do that,” she said. “But we can’t incarcerate ourselves out of these problems.”
Reduce the backlog in DNA testing on guns
Partially fulfilled: While the city has been collecting and testing DNA from each seized gun for years, forensic scientists have struggled to keep up with the evidence, creating a backlog. In June, the mayor and the chief medical examiner announced that the city would be spending $2.5 million on a team of 24 analysts dedicated solely to firearms DNA testing, in the hopes of speeding up the process. The unit has reduced the testing turnaround time by 10 days, to fewer than 50 days per gun, according to the mayor’s office. The goal is to complete tests within 30 days or fewer.