New York City Democrats have backed a law-and-order mayoral candidate — a former police captain — who is almost certain to win the general election with his advocacy of beefed-up but better-trained law enforcement on the city’s crime-ridden streets. This comes in sharp contrast to decisions by voters in St. Louis, Chicago and other progressive-run cities to install mayors who seek to defang and defund the police. As major U.S. cities experience sharp increases in violent crime, the race is on to see which model proves more effective in keeping citizens safe.
We have no problem with efforts by St. Louis Mayor Tishaura Jones and Chicago’s Lori Lightfoot to put heavier emphasis on alternative crime-reduction methods. And it’s certainly worth trying tactics such as sending a mental health worker to talk someone through a mental health crisis and avoid a needless death at the hands of police. Our problem is that too many progressives regard these as the only choices. We believe more and better policing is one part of the answer along with trying those alternative methods.
Defunding or disempowering the police at a time when violent crime is spiking is exactly the wrong strategy at the wrong time as America emerges from a devastating pandemic that shut down activity on urban streets and opened the doors to lawlessness. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Tuesday declared a state of emergency because of rampant crime in his state’s major cities.
Against that backdrop, New York City Democrats went to the polls in a ranked-choice primary similar to the one in which St. Louisans elected Jones four months ago. But the contrast is stark between Democratic nominee Eric Adams and the progressive incumbents of other cities, including St. Louis, Chicago and Philadelphia. In Chicago, Lightfoot is suffering a crisis of credibility after her promises of major police reforms and a slimmed-down police budget have yielded no positive results.
In St. Louis, Jones also cut the police budget while delivering on a pledge to shut down one of the city’s two jails despite already overcrowded conditions in the one that remained. In both cities, violent crime and homicides continue to escalate. During the Independence Day weekend, more than 100 people were shot and 19 killed in Chicago.
New Yorkers apparently have seen enough of the experimentation thus far to decide that the progressive approach is a route they’d rather not experiment with. Adams, 60, will face Guardian Angels founder Curtis Sliwa, a Republican, in a general election that Adams is expected to win handily. His blue-collar roots mark an important departure from the slate of billionaires and millionaires who previously vied for the job. Actual policing experience, along with maturity, offers a far better promise of success than the alternatives presented so far.
This editorial originally appeared in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.