Legal Aid public defenders critical of mayor’s safety plan

In the first three months of the year, well over 300 people were shot, according to NYPD statistics – some injured, others unfortunately killed. It marks a 17% jump from last year during the same time period.

“That’s what this battle is about, we are going to continue to take the guns off the street,” Mayor Eric Adam said at his news conference on March 16, where he announced units of officers would be searching for those with illegal guns.

The Legal Aid Society often represents those arrested for the violence and says the city’s safety plans are smoke and mirrors.

“Programs I think have the tendency to make people feel like they are safer in the moment, but don’t actually make us safer,” said Corey Stoughton of the Legal Aid Society.

She is attorney-in-charge of law reform and the special litigation unit.

Legal Aid says the use of the new NYPD neighbor safety teams to make gun arrests as well as the police crackdown on quality of life crimes won’t work in the long run to end the cycle of violence.

Instead, Legal Aid says the city’s crisis management teams and violence interrupters are the answer. They’re made up of community members and some formerly incarcerated who might know who’s planning to use a gun

Stoughton praised that strategy, saying, “Cure violence is not something that stops gun violence from happening next year. When that kid is out there with a gun on the street that is because something happened yesterday and that kid being out there on the street might lead to another gun on the street tomorrow. So violence interruption is about interrupting that cycle right then, so that tomorrow we don’t have a shooting.”

Legal Aid wants more funding for supportive services. It also doesn’t want more arrests for quality of life violations.

“Arresting someone for public urinating, putting them in Rikers for a few days and letting them back out on the street, which is what a law enforcement solution does, isn’t going to solve the problem,” said Stoughton. “What’s going to solve public urination is investing in mental healthcare, in housing, in job programs to allow that person to get to a place of better social and economic stability that they are not engaging in that sort of activity.”

Legal aid lawyers want to make it clear that they believe police are needed and that Mayor Adams, a retired NYPD captain is qualified to help make improvements to policing and public safety. They say they are eager to meet with the mayor about his initiatives.