Two years of violent crime are leading us to the point of no return
Almost 30 years ago, Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D-N.Y.) wrote of “defining deviancy down,” a cultural transformation where society subconsciously finds itself accepting the abnormal as normal. Just over a century ago, in starker terms, Irish poet William Butler Yeats wrote that “too long a sacrifice makes a stone of the heart.”
While we are not yet at either of these defining moments in New York City or in our nation overall, I fear we are heading there if the growing wave of violent crime is not stopped and stopped soon.
I’m not just talking about the raw numbers of increased murders, assaults and mid-day carjackings. It’s not just the gangbangers or drug dealers attacking and killing for money or turf. It is the brutal, almost indescribable nature of the crimes. Within just the last two weeks there have been three horrific, almost unspeakable violent attacks that accentuate this societal descent:
- Kristal Bayron-Nieves, a beautiful 19-year-old Hispanic woman working nights at Burger King, shot dead because she couldn’t come up with the money fast enough to satisfy a robber. When apprehended, the accused, unrepentant killer, who had a lengthy rap sheet, screamed defiantly that he wanted reparations for slavery.
- Michelle Go, a 40-year-old female Asian executive who was thrown onto the subway tracks to be crushed by an oncoming train at the Times Square subway station. Her accused killer, with a history of mental illness, shouted to bystanders as police led him away that it was his right to kill her because he was God.
- The critically wounded 11-month-old baby girl, shot in the face while in a parked car on a Bronx street outside a grocery store where the infant’s father was shopping. It was early evening. The child was struck by a stray bullet fired by an assailant running on the street and shooting at his fleeing target. The infant was left fighting for her life but is expected to recover.
While each of these tragic incidents was met by public outrage, there also was a sense of “What will happen next?” because the feeling of utter shock and horror was not what it would have been just a few years ago. As vicious as these crimes are, they come against a backdrop of almost two years of escalating violence. Front pages of the New York tabloids have been filled with the faces of young kids who have been murdered. There are the everyday people being shouted at, threatened by or having to walk over and around homeless mental patients at major train stations, such as Penn Station and Grand Central, and then walking onto the street to be confronted with public urination, drug addicts shooting up, and hypodermic needles strewn about the sidewalks.
New York City’s new mayor, Eric Adams, a former NYPD captain who is armed and travels with a security detail, has had to admit that he is fearful on the city’s subway, after first saying that public fear of subway crime was merely a “perception.” The newly elected Manhattan district attorney, Alvin Bragg, apparently oblivious to today’s stark reality, stated his intention to downgrade as many crimes as possible, including charging armed robbery as a misdemeanor and not even prosecuting most cases of resisting arrest. President Biden’s response has been to talk of an executive order calling for police reform.
This is insane. Action must be taken before good people despair and give up on the government’s ability to protect the most basic civil right of public safety.
Adams campaigned for office on the promise of being tough on crime. While he has appointed an outstanding police commissioner in Keechant Sewell, his statements and actions thus far have been mixed.
I still believe, though, that, as a veteran cop with leadership skills, Eric Adams is uniquely positioned to turn the city around. Yet acceptance of crime cannot become the norm. The time for action is now.
Peter King was the U.S. representative of New York’s 2nd and 3rd congressional districts for 28 years, including serving as chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security. Follow him on Twitter @RepPeteKing.