New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and New York Police Department Commissioner James O’Neill are not impressed with the Justice Department’s claim that their city is “soft on crime.”
“New York City continues to see gang murder after gang murder, the predictable consequence of the city’s ‘soft on crime’ stance,” the Justice Department said in a statement Friday, an assertion that doesn’t appear to be in line with the facts.
De Blasio called the statement about his city’s approach to crime “outrageous.”
“It is an unacceptable statement that denigrates the people of New York City and the NYPD,” de Blasio said during a press conference. “It is an outrageous statement and absurd on its face, and ignores a quarter century of progress in this city in bringing down crime.”
“I would say to President Trump and to Attorney General Sessions, if you believe this statement is accurate, come to New York City, look our police officers in the eye and tell them you believe they are soft on crime,” the mayor added. “See how that feels.”
O’Neill also denounced the claim, calling it “unbelievably disrespectful.”
“I’d like to think of myself as a pretty calm and measured person, but when I read that statement by DOJ this afternoon, my blood began to boil,” he said during the press conference.
O’Neill added that the NYPD arrested more than 1,000 people in 100 gang takedowns in 2016. According to the NYPD, overall crime within the city has decreased 76 percent since 1993.
Former Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara also added his opinion on the Justice Department’s claim.
“I don’t know why one storied law enforcement institution (DOJ) would ignorantly malign another (NYPD),” he wrote on Twitter. “That makes no one safer.”
In response, a spokesman for the Justice Department doubled down on the earlier statement, saying it was “New York City’s policies that are soft on crime” and referencing an MS-13 gang member the city released from Rikers.
“Those policies, implemented by New York City’s Mayor and his administration, are directly responsible for a dangerous MS-13 gang member walking out of Rikers Island in February,” the spokesman said, switching the focus from the NYPD to the mayor.
“Unfortunately, the Mayor’s policies are hamstringing the brave NYPD officers that protect the city, and only serve to endanger the lives of the hard working men and women of the NYPD who care more about keeping their city and country safe than they do about city hall politics.”
It’s an odd statement, considering the DOJ is threatening to take away the department’s grant money to make a political point.
Sessions did have some words of praise for the city earlier in the day. “I would say this about New York: New York has done some great things in criminal justice,” the nation’s top cop said during a press conference in San Diego on Friday. “They are following policies that have proven to reduce crime in America.”
Earlier this week, Sessions didn’t seem to understand that a federal judge who serves in Hawaii has the power to block President Donald Trump’s revised travel ban.