NEW YORK CITY — One day after top NYPD officials said they were "struggling" with homicides and shootings, Mayor Bill de Blasio presented a much rosier picture on crime, saying that he believed police would "turn the tide."
Speaking Tuesday before a bill signing at City Hall, de Blasio said there was also an uptick in shootings last spring into summer, but that the NYPD was able to end the year with record low crime numbers.
"The bottom line here is, what’s clear is that last year we faced a similar challenge and we overcame it. How? By applying our officers where the need was greatest, and by improving our strategies, and by using the leadership we had in the NYPD to make the right strategic decisions," de Blasio said.
The mayor cited shifts in policing policy such as a reduction in the number of stop-and-frisks and low-level marijuana arrests, increased use of tablet and cell phone technology and a better relationship between the NYPD and communities in the city for his belief on why things will improve before the end of the year.
"We’ve taken time away from the needless stops," de Blasio said. "We’ve taken time away from the low-level marijuana arrests. We’ve put that time into going after serious crime. You’re giving them better technology, better training. That will clearly turn the tide."
De Blasio's more optimistic outlook on crime comes a day after NYPD officials held a press conference where they blamed gangs, guns and warm weather for a 43 percent increase in homicides in May and a 22 percent increase in shootings.
"We are struggling with homicides and shootings,” NYPD Chief of Department James O’Neill said Monday at One Police Plaza. “As we expect when warm weather comes we see an increase in certain crimes.”
Homicides this year are up 20 percent. There were 135 homicides so far this year compared to 113 this time last year. Shooting incidents have also jumped 9 percent to 439 so far this year compared to 403 this time last year.
Police said Monday they believe more than half the shootings were related to gang violence.
In addition, more homicides are being linked to guns. Approximately 80 percent of homicides in May were committed with guns compared to an average of about 50 percent, said NYPD officials.
De Blasio said he does not believe there is a need for more police officers in spite of the uptick in shootings and homicides.
Commissioner William Bratton and City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito have called on de Blasio to hire 1,000 more police officers. The mayor did not include funding for the new officers in his executive budget.
De Blasio also said a return to the era of massive stop and frisks is not the answer.
"Stop and frisk was applied with such a broad brush as to be unconstitutional," he said. "That’s what federal court found. We came up with a better approach under the leadership of Commissioner Bratton. We stop people who have done something wrong, and you see that in the statistics."
Police reform groups have criticized de Blasio for saying stop and frisks are only being conducted on people who have done something wrong.
Alyssa Aguilera, political director for VOCAL-NY, said she felt the relationship between police and communities of color has a long way to go before she would consider it improved, but she's pleased that de Blasio is not turning to stop and frisk as an instant solution to the increase in shootings and homicides.
"There has never been a correlation between shootings and stop and frisk," she said. "You get these snapshots of shootings and crime in the city and you forget the big picture that crime is down and shootings are down dramatically over the last 20 years."