New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and Police Commissioner James O’Neill blasted the Department of Justice at a press conference on Friday for its statement accusing the city of being “soft on crime.”
“It is an unacceptable statement that denigrates the people of New York City and the NYPD. It is an outrageous statement and absurd on its face, and ignores a quarter century of progress in this city in bringing down crime,” de Blasio said, adding that the city just marked its safest three months in history.
“We did not become the safest big city in America by being ‘soft on crime.’ I’ve never met a member of the NYPD who is soft on crime. This good police commissioner is not soft on crime. This is an insult, this statement.”
De Blasio demanded that Attorney General Jeff Sessions and President Donald Trump renounce the statement, challenging them to “come here to New York City and look our police officers in the eye and tell them they’re soft on crime.”
The DOJ had released the statement after sending letters to nine so-called “sanctuary” jurisdictions across the country, including New York City, threatening to withhold funding unless they prove by June 30 they are complying with federal law.
“Many of these jurisdictions are also crumbling under the weight of illegal immigration and violent crime,” the DOJ said in a statement, although research has found that jurisdictions with “sanctuary” policies in fact have lower crime rates than their nonsanctuary counterparts.
“New York City continues to see gang murder after gang murder, the predictable consequence of the city’s ‘soft on crime’ stance,” the statement continued.
Yet New York has reported record low murder and crime rates in recent years, following a steady downward trend since 1990. In his remarks Friday, a visibly irate O’Neill noted that in 2016, the NYPD jailed more than 1,000 people in 100 gang takedowns.
“Maybe we should ask them if we’re soft on crime,” he said.
“I like to think of myself as a pretty calm and measured person. But when I read that statement by the Department of Justice this afternoon, my blood began to boil.”
Today’s @TheJusticeDept statement is unbelievably disrespectful to the hardworking #NYPD cops who fight crime and keep people safe everyday. pic.twitter.com/5F9EfvddgF
— Commissioner O’Neill (@NYPDONeill) April 21, 2017