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NYC Mayor Eric Adams applauds federal help to fight crime


The new mayor of New York City has taken to calling himself the Biden of Brooklyn, a fellow blue-collar guy who understands average people.

ERIC ADAMS: Not only the person that can bear the weight of the city, but someone you don't mind having a beer with. That's what people want.

KEITH: Yesterday, Mayor Eric Adams and President Joe Biden met in New York City to announce new federal initiatives on gun violence. In January, the New York Police Department said major crimes were up 38.5% over the same time last year. Both the mayor and the president think the answer is not fewer resources to police but more.


PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: The answer is to come together - the police and communities building trust and making us all safer. The answer is not to defund the police. It's to give you the tools, the training, the funding to be partners, to be protectors.

KEITH: Eric Adams happens to be a former NYPD officer who also touts police reform. This morning, I asked the mayor what he thinks is behind the spike in violent crime in his and other U.S. cities.

ADAMS: I believe it's a combination. And I continue to say we have many rivers that are feeding the sea of violence in our city. And we have to dam each river. And the president's visit yesterday was one of the dammings that we're calling for. And that's to stop the flow of illegal guns in our city.

But there's other things - the housing crisis. The mental health is another river. So these rivers are really filling up the sea. And that's my job - to dam these rivers.

KEITH: I want to zero in on the federal assistance that you're asking for. It would be public safety money used to combat gun violence. Walk us through specifically how that money would be used and what the partnership is that you see with the federal government.

ADAMS: As we talk about specifically, that river that's being dammed is not only dollars to assist with the crisis management teams - these are programs that have proven to be successful; it takes a holistic approach to dealing with violence - but it's also using ATF to go after those illegal gun dealers. We took 6,000 guns off our streets last year and close to 400 this year, yet we continuously see guns come in the city. We have to stop that. We're doing our job on a public safety end, but the federal government must do its job in stopping the guns from coming into the streets all across America.

KEITH: How quickly do you think that the actions that you are taking, that the federal government is talking about taking - how quickly can that have an impact on violent crime in your city and other cities? And how do you measure success?

ADAMS: You know, some of this is within our span of control. That's why I am putting in place a plainclothes anti-gun unit that can zero in on those dangerous offenders that are carrying guns. But it is outside of my direct span of control to have a review of the bail laws, and it's outside my span of control to go after those gun dealers that are flooding our streets. So I'm going to do my job, but we can go further if we can get everyone on board rowing in the same direction.

KEITH: When you talk about this plainclothes unit, for a lot of people, it brings up Eric Garner and the fact that he was killed by a plainclothes unit that was using excessive force. How will this be different this time around if you have plainclothes officers out there?

ADAMS: Well, first, I want some real understanding of what I put in place. And this is not a plainclothes unit. This is going to be a unit where officers are going to be wearing a modified police uniform, so they are readily identified. Second, they're going to be wearing body cameras, so every interaction is going to be recorded.

And we're going to make sure that officers that are not suitable - they won't serve in this unit. We're going to get this right. We could have the justice we deserve and the safety that we need.

KEITH: How hard is it to get right? There are some critics who say that you're leaning too heavy on the police side and not heavily enough on the community side. I know that you talked about all those rivers, and several of the rivers have nothing to do with enforcement. But how challenging is it to get that balance right?

ADAMS: It is extremely challenging, but I'm the right person to get it right. And when you talk to those individuals who say Eric is leaning too hard on the police side, they're not reading the documents. They're listening to soundbites and bumper stickers.

I am talking about upstream methods so we don't wait downstream and pull people out of despair. I understand these problems because what people are living in now, I lived through as a child. This is my life. This is my life work.

KEITH: Can we talk about politics for a minute? It's very clear that Republicans are going to point to the crime statistics that are not great in major cities all over this country and say Democrats are the problem. And that is going to be a huge theme in the midterms.

So how much pressure is there to fix this challenge right now before November? What is your thought on sort of the politics of talking about crime and policing?

ADAMS: Well, we have to be radically practical. We have to have practical conversations with New Yorkers and Americans. And it doesn't mean that Americans and New Yorkers are anti-police. They're anti-police brutality. The majority of New Yorkers and Americans want to be safe, and they want to make sure that their police are well-trained with the resources to protect their communities with the level of dignity and respect that they deserve.

KEITH: That's New York City Mayor Eric Adams. Thank you so much.

ADAMS: Thank you. Take care. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Tamara Keith has been a White House correspondent for NPR since 2014 and co-hosts the NPR Politics Podcast, the top political news podcast in America. Keith has chronicled the Trump administration from day one, putting this unorthodox presidency in context for NPR listeners, from early morning tweets to executive orders and investigations. She covered the final two years of the Obama presidency, and during the 2016 presidential campaign she was assigned to cover Hillary Clinton. In 2018, Keith was elected to serve on the board of the White House Correspondents' Association.
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