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After Shootings, Eric Adams Rushes to Release Safety Plan

Mayor Eric Adams, who won New Yorkers’ votes by campaigning on a need for improved public safety, is facing a growing crisis over gun violence.

Mayor Eric Adams rode to office on a platform of bringing down crime in New York City. In his first weeks as mayor, that challenge has risen to meet him.

A woman was pushed to her death at a Times Square subway station. A baby was shot in the Bronx. A 19-year-old Burger King worker was killed during a robbery in Manhattan. Police officers were wounded in the Bronx, East Harlem and on Staten Island.

In each instance, Mr. Adams responded. He visited the mothers of those injured or killed; he rushed to city hospitals to check in on wounded officers; he has convened three anti-gun violence round tables.

But the killing of a police officer on Friday in Harlem has raised the stakes for the mayor, and has fast-tracked the timeline for him to do something substantive to improve public safety.

Acknowledging that gun violence was becoming a crisis in his young mayoralty, Mr. Adams said he would deliver a speech in the coming days to outline a comprehensive public safety plan.

“This is a sea of crime that is being fed by many rivers, and we have to dam each one of those rivers,” Mr. Adams said on CNN on Sunday. “These crimes did not start during my administration. They have been here for far too long in many parts of our community.”

Jeenah Moon for The New York Times

The city was mourning the death of Officer Jason Rivera, 22, on Sunday, after he and another officer, Wilbert Mora, were shot on Friday as they responded to a domestic incident. Mr. Adams joined officers to pay respects on Sunday as Officer Rivera’s body was brought to a funeral home in Manhattan.

Officer Mora, 27, remained in critical condition, and was to be transferred from Harlem Hospital to NYU Langone Medical Center on Sunday.

In 2014, the killing of two police officers, Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos, deepened a rift between Mayor Bill de Blasio, Mr. Adams’s predecessor, and the police; officers turned their backs on him during the officers’ funerals, and blamed him for fostering an anti-police atmosphere in New York.

Mr. Adams has spoken frequently about the 2014 killings of Officers Liu and Ramos in Brooklyn, while Mr. Adams was borough president. He established a relationship with Officer Liu’s parents; they endorsed him in the mayor’s race, and the officer’s mother appeared onstage with Mr. Adams on election night.

Mr. Adams, a former police captain, has a better relationship with the police and has more support among officers to enact his agenda, but he certainly understands the need to define his mayoralty before events define it for him.

Mr. Adams’s forthcoming plan, which he called a“Blueprint for Safety,” will examine the underlying reasons for violence and offer initiatives like reinstating a plainclothes police unit, which was involved in a disproportionate number of fatal shootings, to address gun violence. The unit was disbanded under Mr. de Blasio after George Floyd’s killing in 2020.Mr. Adams also vowed to provide better outreach to homeless people on the subway, to try to stop the flow of guns into the city, and boost programs like violence interrupters _ mediators with direct experience of community violence _ and job training for youth in high crime neighborhoods.

Asked how long it would take for New Yorkers to see results and whether it could be months or years, Mr. Adams said it should be sooner than that.

Alexi J. Rosenfeld/Getty Images

“I’m hoping it takes days if possible,” he said on Saturday. “Listen, the one thing I can commit to New Yorkers: No one is going to work harder, no one is going to give more of themselves than I am as the mayor of this city.”

Already, Mr. Adams has received praise for showing up.

After the mayor led a discussion on gun violence at an elementary school in the Fordham section of the Bronx, Representative Adriano Espaillat said on Saturday that mayors rarely visited that neighborhood.

“This neighborhood is in high need of help and the mayor was here yesterday, and he’s here today and I was with him last night at Harlem Hospital,” he said of the hospital where Officer Rivera was taken.

Questions over policing, homelessness and mental illness were front and center during the competitive Democratic primary for mayor last year. Mr. Adams criticized the defund the police movement and argued that he was the only candidate who could balance public safety and police reform. Other candidates took issue with Mr. Adams’s positions on the plainclothes unit and his comments that stop and frisk policing could be a useful tool in some cases.

Tiffany Cabán, a left-leaning new City Council member from Queens, said she was worried about the return of the aggressive unit.

“I’m deeply, deeply concerned that the mayor has expressed interest in bringing back the plainclothes unit, because the unit has done a ton of harm,” she said in an interview, adding that it was involved in high profile police killings like Eric Garner’s in Staten Island in 2014.

But she added that she “was also incredibly encouraged to hear the mayor talk about violence interrupters as being a central part of the strategy moving forward.”

Camille Rivera, a Democratic strategist, said that some New Yorkers were nervous about the return of the police unit.

“We all know where these officers are going to be — they’re going to be in communities of color,” she said. “It’s going to be important to have a holistic plan that includes mental health services and community relations.”

Mr. Adams has said that he would hire officers for the unit who have “the skills and temperament for this kind of intense, on-the-ground police work” and that they would be involved in targeted operations against known shooters, not broader harassment.

Meanwhile, Gov. Kathy Hochul announced a new partnership with Mr. Adams on Sunday called the Interstate Task Force on Illegal Guns that will meet on Wednesday. The group will bring together law enforcement officials from nine states in the Northeast to address illegal guns.

Desiree Rios for The New York Times

Mr. Adams had already been working to address gun violence before the latest incidents. On his second day in office, he held a round table discussion on gun violence with his police commissioner, Keechant Sewell, at an after-school center for children in Harlem, about a mile from where the officers were shot on Friday. He held another discussion on gun violence on Jan. 11 with clergy leaders.

The event in the Bronx on Saturday was in response to the baby who was injured in a shooting nearby, and scheduled before Officer Rivera’s death. Mr. Adams sat with elected officials and anti-violence workers to discuss ways the city could better support them.

One worker told the mayor he had concerns about the plainclothes unit because many men in the neighborhood were carrying guns and might use them if an officer surprised them.

“Are these cops being trained on how to approach individuals or are they just jumping out?” he asked, noting that many officers were young like Officer Rivera and did not have a lot of experience.

Mr. Adams said he welcomed advice on training because he did not want officers “jumping out,” but he reiterated the need for plainclothes officers to keep bad guys on their toes.

“Policing is both omnipresence — the blue and white,” he said, “and it’s also unpredictable.”

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