Jumaane Williams, the city’s public advocate and a Democratic candidate for governor, is playing games with New Yorkers on the vital issue of public safety. Cynically claiming to cherish “safe and thriving communities,” he advocates the same policies that brought New York to its knees and gave criminals the whip hand over peaceful, law-abiding people.
As violent crime soars across the city, Williams — along with others on the hard left — redefines “safety” to mean nearly anything but freedom from fear of getting stabbed, shoved or shot in another “random” incident.
Williams tweeted Tuesday that “true public safety comes when communities have what they need to thrive. Public safety is safe housing, good health care, childcare, reliable transportation, and living-wage jobs — not over policing, arrests, incarceration, and surveillance.”
This reinterpretation of what it means to feel “safe” just inverts the standard definition of the word for ideological ends. “Safety” no longer means getting criminals off the streets — it means fulfilling the same wish list that progressives always demand.
Someone got shot on the subway? We need more funding for the New York City Housing Authority! A teenager was stabbed in a juice store? Let’s unionize daycare workers! A woman was raped in a Bronx park? More funding for libraries, now!
Here’s a useful rule: When someone offers the same answer no matter what question you ask, he has an agenda that has nothing to do with the issue at hand.
Williams and his cohort are defining public safety down. They see violent crime as a feature of urban life and the effective solution — “arrests, incarceration, and surveillance” — as a cure that’s worse than the disease. Instead of trying to treat what they think of as a symptom, they encourage us to look at crime’s social “root causes.”
Progressive idol Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) made this point in her characteristically clumsy way in July 2020 when she blamed rising crime on the fact that criminals “need to feed their child, and they don’t have money so . † † they feel like they either need to shoplift some bread or go hungry.”
This is like saying people only jump the turnstile because they need to get to their third job after attending their second church service of the day. If there’s a rash of needy parents stealing bread to feed their starving children, I’d like to hear about it, but in the meantime, there’s little evidence that people commit violent crime — or shoplift from upscale Soho boutiques — out of anything resembling real need.
Williams, meanwhile, gas lights New Yorkers, tell them to ignore the evidence of their own eyes. “Folks want to be safe, and they want to feel safe,” he explained last month. “Sometimes they are safe but don’t feel safe, and that could be just as dangerous in pushing policies that harm people.”
Got that? If you don’t feel safe on the subway — where 18 people have been murdered in two years — you’re wrong and should ignore your own senses. The “dangerous” problem, he safesplains, is that when people underestimate how safe they really are, they may demand action that “harms people.”
like what? You know — arresting criminals and sending them to jail. Letting cops do their job. Tracking gang members. Responding to calls for help from law-abiding residents whose buildings, streets and parks have been turned into 24-hour crime scenes. All the traditional methods that made New York City safe and prosperous but which Williams and his allies see as Gestapo tactics.
No figure in public life has made such an effort to destroy public safety in New York City as Jumaane Williams. From scrapping with police at protests to promoting legislation designed to put policing in deep freeze, he has built his career on making the city more dangerous. Which is why it is so richly ironic that Williams lives inside Brooklyn’s Fort Hamilton, a gated army base guarded by soldiers armed with machine guns.
Williams never has to concern himself with drug dealers, deranged homeless people or vandals in his neighborhood. They can’t get in. Try protesting outside the public advocate’s house — as he has done outside his opponents’ houses many times — and see what the soldiers at the gate say. Per the base’s website, “all visitors and uncleared contractors desiring access to Fort Hamilton must be vetted through the National Crime Information Center Interstate Identification Index.”
Sounds cozy — for him. This rank hypocrisy on public safety is pure chutzpah. Jumaane Williams ought to quit while he’s ahead and enjoy the peace and quiet of Fort Hamilton instead of lecturing the rest of us about our security.
Seth Barron is managing editor of The American Mind and author of “The Last Days of New York.”