A long, hot summer has begun in Chicago, parts of which resembled a war zone over the long Independence Day weekend. Eighty-two people were shot—and 14 died—over a five-day span. SWAT teams, aided by a helicopter and military-style vehicles, were called in to restore a semblance of order on the South Side.
New York remains far, far safer than Chicago, but a spike in shootings—from 514 at this time last year to 562 this year—should remind us that there is nothing inevitable about public safety. The demise of stop, question and frisk has emboldened bad guys with guns, with deplorable results in some of the city’s poorest communities.
Police Commissioner Bill Bratton has ordered the redeployment of nearly 400 cops from desk jobs and other duties to patrol duty in 10 high-crime precincts and several public housing projects. That’s a welcome response, but the redeployments are no more than a short-term solution. The commissioner, the mayor, and other city officials need to tell us how they will continue to drive down crime—and, frankly, how they will make the streets unsafe for thugs—without relying on stop, question and frisk.
New Yorkers have gotten used to historic declines in crime over the last 20 years. But as the citizens of Chicago know all too well, crime rates do not fall on their own. Public safety requires a balance of toughness, creativity and imagination.
New York simply cannot afford to lose its reputation as the nation’s safest large city. The question is whether City Hall understands this.