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NEW YORK (AP) – Fear of crime is back as a political issue in New York. For the first time in years, this could be a major factor in choosing voters as the next mayor.

Early voting begins in the city’s party primaries on Saturday. The ballots are being cast as the city emerges hopefully after a year of pandemic containment, but also amid a worrying increase in shootings.

The violence is still well below the historic highs of the 1990s, if not the New York of the early 2000s. But it has forced the leading Democratic candidates to balance discussions of police reform with promises not to let New York. York return to its bygone days as the capital of crime.

“No one comes to New York, in our multibillion-dollar tourism industry, if you have 3-year-olds shot in Times Square,” Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams said in a statement. recent debate, referring to a May 8 shoot in which a 4-year-old girl and two adult women were injured by stray bullets.

Adams, a former police captain who also co-founded a leadership group for black officers, has topped most polls, with issues of crime and law enforcement dominating recent debates at the town hall.

The race remains tight, however, with 2020 presidential candidate Andrew Yang, former city sanitation commissioner Kathryn Garcia, city comptroller Scott Stringer and civil rights lawyer Maya Wiley leading the way. candidates in a field of 13 Democratic candidates.

Election day is June 22, with New York City’s first Democrat with a Democratic majority being very likely to win the November general election and succeed limited-term mayor Bill de Blasio.

The Republican primary presents Curtis Sliwa, founder of the anti-crime group Guardian Angels, against Fernando Mateo, restaurateur and advocate for taxi drivers.

The Times Square shooting and other high-profile crimes like last weekend’s fatal bullet on a 10 year old boy in Queens raised fears of a besieged city. “Stop the bloodshed,” shouted a recent front page of the New York Post, who warned of ceding the streets “to the homeless, dirt, crime and guns” in an editorial endorsing Adams.

The reality is more nuanced.

Many of the most common types of crime in the city, including thefts, burglaries and serious theft, remain near historic lows. In the first five months of 2021, the total number of major crimes measured by the police service was at its lowest since comparable statistics became available in the 1990s.

But since the spring of 2020, the number of shootings has skyrocketed.

As of June 6, there had been 181 homicides in New York City, up from 121 during the same period in 2019, a 50% increase. It’s the worst start to the year since 2011.

At least 687 people were injured or shot dead until June 6. It’s not historically bad. More than 2,400 people were shot dead during the same period in 1993. But that’s the highest number for a winter and early spring since 2000.

A plurality of voters interviewed in a Spectrum News NY1 / Ipsos survey published this week picked “crime or violence” as the biggest problem New York faces, with both racial injustice and police reform also in the top 10.

Reverend Al Sharpton, who has known most Democratic mayoral candidates for years, said crime is a big problem in black communities and progressive candidates should treat it more candidly.

“You know, two weeks after giving the eulogy at George Floyd’s funeral, I eulogized a one-year-old in Brooklyn killed by a stray bullet in a gang brawl.” said Sharpton, referring to Davell Gardner, dejected while sitting in his stroller last summer. “So it’s not true that those of us who want police reform don’t want to fight crime at the same time. And I think progressive candidates need to be more about it. “

Maria Forbes, president of the Clay Avenue Tenants’ Association in the Bronx, said crime increased in her neighborhood during the pandemic and she took taxis to avoid the subway.

“I don’t feel safe on the train,” Forbes said.

But Forbes, like many New Yorkers, also doesn’t view the crime or any particular issue as the most pressing. Housing and education are also big problems, she said.

“You have minimum wage people who need housing and there are six in a two bedroom,” Forbes said.

The candidates differ widely in their approaches to crime.

Wiley, who competes with Stringer and former nonprofit leader Dianne Morales for New York’s most liberal votes, would cut police budgets by $ 1 billion a year “and invest those funds directly in the communities most affected by gun violence, “according to his platform.

A Wiley campaign ad shows police entering a crowd of Black Lives Matter protesters last year. She says in the ad that it’s “time the NYPD saw us as people who deserve to breathe,” a reference to the deaths of Eric Garner and George Floyd.

Stringer said he would cut at least $ 1 billion over four years through measures such as shifting mental health interventions to non-police crisis teams and reducing police overtime.

Garcia did not call for cuts to the police budget, but said the minimum age for officers should be raised from 21 to 25 and new recruits should be forced to live in the city.

Yang supports a police residency requirement as well as increased departmental surveillance, but rejects calls for police funding.

“The truth is New York City cannot afford to fund the police,” he warned.

Adams, who spent 22 years in the New York Police Department, says he suffered police brutality as a teenager and joined the force to reform it from within.

A group founded by Adams, called 100 Blacks in Law Enforcement Who Care, has advocated against racial profiling and for the recruitment of more officers of color.

While New York City Hall races are often unpredictable, this primary is particularly difficult to predict as it will be the first to use. ranked choice vote, with voters ranking up to five candidates.

Turnout, generally low in mayoral primaries, will also be a factor.

“The question is which issues will be most important to voters who show up on the day of the primaries,” said Susan Kang, a political scientist at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice.

Kang said crime was not the main issue she heard about for a city council candidate she supported in Queens.

“People talk to me about all kinds of things like property tax issues, street parking, public transportation,” Kang said. “Nobody says to me: ‘but what is this person going to do about crime?'”

Karen Matthews and Michael R. Sisak, Associated Press

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