Democratic candidate for New York City Mayor Eric Adams attends a rally at City Hall the day before the election in New York City, November 1, 2021. (Carlo Allegri/Reuters)

Following the fatal shooting of a police officer in Manhattan last week, Mayor Eric Adams on Monday unveiled his new strategy to combat rising gun violence in New York City, starting with the deployment of an anti-gun crime unit next month.

“We will not surrender our city to the violent few,” Adams said.

The city will launch a reinvented version of the plainclothes anti-crime unit, which was disbanded amid the civil unrest prompted by the murder of George Floyd, to emphasize fostering community trust in law enforcement rather than the aggressive crime-fighting tactics that had provoked protest from Black Lives Matter.

“I want to be clear: This is not just a plan for the future – it is a plan for right now,” Adams added. “Gun violence is a public health crisis. There is no time to wait.”

The new units, named the Neighborhood Safety Teams, are expected to be active in the 30 precincts that account for the majority of violent incidents in the city. The mayor said police are recruiting for the roles currently.

Adams, a former police chief, assumed office as a seemingly more moderate Democrat than his predecessor who was willing to crack down on crime with the larger goal of police reform in mind. He has confronted the challenge of dealing with perpetrators who may suffer from mental illness while arguing that traditional policing is often inappropriate for handling such situations, overwhelming already ill-equipped and under-resourced officers.

While many citizens yearn for safety and a return to law and order, in November Black Lives Matter New York chapter threatened political unrest if Adams were to reinstate the anti-crime units. The teams had received backlash over the years for allegedly disproportionately targeting minorities in their crime-fighting, resorting to a tactic called “stop and frisk,” which critics say involved racial profiling.

“If he thinks that they’re going to go back to the old ways of policing, then we are going to take to the streets again,” Hawk Newsome, co-founder of Black Lives Matter of Greater New York, told the New York Daily News. “There will be riots, there will be fire and there will be bloodshed because we believe in defending our people.”

Adams has recognized that New Yorkers and prospective tourists are shaken by news of rogue characters pushing innocent riders into oncoming subway trains. A particularly haunting recent case involved the death of an Asian-American woman who was thrust onto a track by a homeless man and crushed by a train.

In response, Adams and New York Governor Kathy Hochul have promised that state-funded “mental health professionals,” such as social workers, will be sent down into the subways to patrol for individuals who require intervention, but time will tell whether that is enough to assuage the fears of wary residents and stop the violent assaults.

Adams said the NYPD will conduct hundreds of daily visual inspections in the subway by deploying patrol officers from above ground and those working “behind desks,” Homeless people will be referred to outreach teams, he has said.

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