Adams to Name ‘Gun Violence Czar’ as New York Shooting Surge Persists

With the number of shootings in New York City still at heightened levels, Mayor Eric Adams is expected to appoint a “gun violence czar” just as the summer’s traditional spike in firearm-related violence looms.

The Adams administration has also considered declaring a state of emergency related to the surge in gun violence, according to internal materials reviewed by The New York Times.

Since taking office in January, Mr. Adams — a former police captain who was elected on the premise that he could crack down on crime — has assigned more police officers to the subway system while also reviving an anti-gun unit that the previous police commissioner abolished after it was repeatedly implicated in abuses.

The mayor has also said he would name a staff member with a focus on fighting gun violence at every city agency, and has experimented with technology that can find guns without the use of a metal detector.

“This is the civil rights battle of our lifetime, dealing with how guns are destroying not only individuals, but is destroying the anatomy of our cities and our communities,” Mr. Adams said Tuesday while speaking to a gathering of faith leaders prompted by recent mass shootings.

It was not entirely clear what the gun violence czar — or “gun violence prevention chair” as the position is sometimes referred to in the city documents — would do. Officials declined to provide details about the matter.

“We will continue to roll out programs in the days, weeks, and months ahead to remove guns from our streets, protect our communities, and create a safe, prosperous, and just city for all New Yorkers,” Fabien Levy, a spokesman for Mr. Adams, said in a statement.

From 2019 to last year, shooting incidents roughly doubled in New York City, to 1,562 from 777. The last time the number of shootings in the city reached that level was 2006, when Michael R. Bloomberg was mayor.

Mr. Adams has cast New York’s crime problems as historically grave. “I have never witnessed crime at this level,” he told Fox 5’s Good Day New York in May.

Investigators at the site of an April shooting in the Bronx that left an innocent bystander, a 61-year-old woman, dead. Credit…Dakota Santiago for The New York Times

In keeping with that sentiment, he has inveighed against those who question the police — even criticizing bystanders who record police officers’ interactions with civilians.

“There are days that the commissioner and I feel as though we’re the only ones that are actually backing our Police Department,” Mr. Adams said last week while discussing the school massacre in Uvalde, Texas. “We feel as though we are alone.”

But the mayor has attracted criticism for taking a lenient stance toward the past mistakes of friends and high-level staff members, and his planned pick for gun violence prevention chair appears to fit that trend.

Mr. Adams is expected to name Andre T. Mitchell, the founder of Man Up!, a Brooklyn anti-violence group, to the position, according to the documents reviewed by The Times.

In 2019, the city’s Department of Investigation criticized Man Up!, which receives public money, for poor administration and for employing several relatives of Mr. Mitchell, in violation of the organization’s contract with the city.

Founded in the aftermath of the 2003 murder ofDaesean Hill, an 8-year-old boy from Brooklyn, Man Up! aims to combat violence by interceding in disputes before it is too late — in the mold of the “cure violence” movement. The group also operates after-school and job training programs.

Mr. Mitchell said in an interview that he would serve in a volunteer capacity. The internal documents also call for the formation of an interagency task force to address gun violence that would involve Mr. Mitchell.

“We’re going to be focusing on precision prevention, really trying our darnedest to get through to the people who may even consider acting out,” Mr. Mitchell said.

Andre T. Mitchell is set to become New York City’s first gun violence czar. “We’re going to be focusing on precision prevention,” he said in an interview. Credit…Chang W. Lee/The New York Times

He said the city would also set up job and resource fairs in communities that have been particularly hard hit by gun violence, to better connect New Yorkers with employment and services. And he said he would establish liaisons with all city agencies to facilitate the anti-violence effort.

Elizabeth Glazer, the former director of the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice, praised Mr. Mitchell and his organization, which she said “does very good work.” But she also said she found it “distressing” that Mr. Adams was introducing the effort so “late in the day” in June.

She encouraged the mayor to put together a plan guided by concrete goals and metrics, one that focused on making more arrests in gun and murder cases, where clearance rates have remained low.

“There are a lot of ways to deal with crime,” Ms. Glazer said. “Solving the shootings would be important, but it does have to be put together into a strategy where you steel yourself every day to see whether it’s working or not. And that’s the piece that seems to be missing.”

In January, after two police officers were fatally shot in the line of duty, the mayor released a “blueprint to end gun violence.” Since then, he has rolled out the refashioned version of the Police Department’s anti-crime units, increased funding for summer youth employment programs and protected the Police Department’s budget from the kind of cuts other agencies have had to absorb.

Maria Haberfeld, a professor of police science at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, warned that a “perfect storm” of violence was headed New York City’s way this summer, and she praised the mayor’s new plans.

“Symbolic moves are very important, because we do need to send a message to people who do not respect law and order, that law and order is our priority in the city,” she said. “Whether or not it will translate immediately into reduction of violence, I don’t think so. It just takes time to get the situation under the control.”

The mayor recently told The Financial Times that he initially believed he would be able to turn the tide on crime in February. Since then, however, number of shootings has remained stubbornly high.

Through May 29, there have been 502 shooting incidents, according to police data, a 10 percent decline from 2021, when there were 558 over the same five-month period, but still 61.4 percent higher than the same period in 2020.

Mr. Adams has taken lately to calling for more support for the police and his policing measures. Last week, he sought the help of a group of business leaders.

“I’m asking them to do everything from book billboards, to newspaper ads, sign on letters,” he said. “We need to lift up public safety in our city. We have not been doing a good job with doing that.”

In May, Mr. Adams and Keechant Sewell, the police commissioner, urged the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to revoke the license of the manufacturer of parts used to make so-called ghost guns that the Police Department had seized.

The mayor has also spoken out against an expected ruling by the Supreme Court striking down a New York City law that limits the ability of people to carry guns outside their homes, telling faith leaders that the prospect was “frightening.”

Monifa Bandele, a spokeswoman for Communities United for Police Reform, said the mayor should redirect police and Correction Department funds toward investments in housing, employment, education, mental health care and youth programming.

“I have very little hope and faith in the direction that Mayor Adams is going in,” Ms. Bandele said. “Whether it is a gun violence czar or these additional types of anti-gun or anti-crime units that he has put forward, he seems committed to a particular style of attacking violence in our communities, which is punishment, which is incarceration, which is policing.”

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