“I’m hungry!” I didn’t have the courage to look up and face the tall man who approached me in the deserted street, less than a hundred yards from the building where I live. I only remember the color of the jacket and that he was well dressed. It was 2:30 p.m. and he had just withdrawn money from an ATM at a nearby grocery store.
The interaction with the stranger must have lasted no more than five seconds, during which time I pulled out a ten dollar bill from my purse and he thanked me in a low voice. I wasn’t assaulted, I thought, as I tried to calm myself down, walking, without looking back, to the next block, where there would be pedestrian movement.
The incident came months after the start of the pandemic that has killed more than 31,000 people in the city alone, the first epicenter of Covid-19 infections. Until then, New York was the protagonist of other numbers – the safest metropolis in the country. The so-called “great drop in crime” in the United States began in 1993 and saw two recessions until 2019. The drastic reduction in the rate of violent crime in New York has resisted even the increase in the homeless population in the last decade.
With the onset of the quarantine, deserted US cities recorded even less crime, a trend similar to that seen in other countries that imposed lockdowns. But, weeks after racial protests erupted against the death of black man George Floyd, suffocated by a white policeman who is accused in a trial in Minneapolis, it became clear that urban violence was on the rise again. rise. New York, the showcase for public safety, has seen twice as many shootings and 462 homicides, up 44% in 2020.
Experts disagreed with explaining the 26-year decline in crime in the United States, using arguments such as police efficiency, gun-carrying restrictions, and even demographic shifts. . They should not disagree with recent factors, such as the recession caused by the pandemic, coupled with the loss of confidence in the police.
George Floyd was of course not the first black man to be murdered by a police officer, but his death from asphyxiation, recorded on videotape, touched a nerve of racial tension that resonated in several countries. Crime has also dramatically changed the image of the police force, honored by mayors like no other segment of public servants in previous decades.
Confidence in the police is a key factor in preventing crime. Floyd’s death sparked a nationwide outcry for reforms and even a reduction in public security forces. A Gallup Institute survey, conducted during the weeks of racial protests last June, showed that the majority of black Americans (61%) don’t want to see a cut in policing where they live.
As a candidate, Joe Biden promised to create a federal police oversight commission. He has gone back and now defends the legislative path of reform – which is like washing your hands. There should not be a majority in the Senate to impose restrictions on the methods law enforcement officers use, such as the armband, that can lead to death from asphyxiation.
Busy with the pandemic and the economic agenda, in addition to new international crises, the Biden government does not want to spend energy on urban violence. But if the economic recovery expected this year does not dominate crime rates, public safety, often treated as a municipal agenda, will turn into national ammunition against Democrats in the 2022 midterm elections.
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