New York City’s Re-established Neighborhood Safety Teams Are Already Making a Difference


AP pictures
Eric Adams, Mayor of New York

After an initial success of New York City Mayor Eric Adams’ newly resurrected Neighborhood Safety Teams (NSTs), he announced on Monday that he was rolling out a second wave. He called it ‘precision policing’: ‘That’s what precision policing is… There’s a clear message: do it right, don’t violate people’s freedoms, but chase those guns and those who shoot on the trigger. ”

Since the first wave of some 168 officers — in teams of six in each of 28 of the Big Apple’s 177 neighborhoods — began surveilling on Monday, March 14, “we’ve made 31 arrests,” the mayor said, ” and 10 guns [have been] removed from our streets.

The second wave began on Monday, focusing on five more precincts in high-crime areas.

City Police Commissioner Keechant Sewell, who was initially skeptical of the decision to reinstate the teams, seemed to agree. She said, “These impressive results represent the next era of responsible and responsive crime fighting,” adding:

These teams are for gun violence. They are there for criminal activities. But they look like police. They are not in civilian clothes. The uniform clearly states on the back: NYPD Police.

Since the effort was suspended in June 2020 by then-Mayor Bill DeBlasio, crime has skyrocketed. So far this year, 284 people have been shot, compared to 215 at the same time last year. Adams’ pledge to curb violence was widely seen as a major factor in his election last November.

Adams’ initial success is seen by many as a first step. Part of his plan is not just to reinvigorate the NSTs, but to work to appoint judges with a “demonstrated commitment to keeping violent criminals who use guns off the streets of New York.”

The strategy is similar to the “stop, question and search” policies instituted under former Mayor Michael Bloomberg, except for the “search” part. Teams use a Terry Stop – based on a Supreme Court ruling (Terry v. Ohio) which watered down the Fourth Amendment from “probable cause” to “reasonable suspicion”.

But that ‘reasonable suspicion’ is bolstered by the latest technology, which enables NST officers to remotely identify when an individual is carrying a firearm. Essentially, this technology allows officers to conduct a “virtual” search without touching the individual.

It remains to be seen whether the initial “success” can be maintained. Tiffany Caban, a City Council Democrat, said, “Much of the mayor’s plan is cause for deep concern… [that it’s] built on a base of surveillance and punishment, which are ineffective and dangerous.

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