The NYPD’s newest unit of crime-fighters deals in a dangerous game, but safety is their middle name.
The much-publicized new NYPD Neighborhood Safety Teams were ceremonially unveiled Wednesday morning in Queens with fanfare and speeches from Mayor Eric Adams and Police Commissioner Keechant Sewell. Both the department brass and the Adams administration are counting on the new teams to help turn around the alarming spike in gun violence New York has experienced over the past two years.
With the new unit standing beside them, the mayor and police commissioner stood within Queens’ Police Academy and looked to both introduce the team to the public while also hoping to alleviate fears that the Neighborhood Safety Teams would fail to uphold the rights of citizens while working to uphold the law.
A dangerous assignment
Adams began by stressing the dangers involved within the line of duty and applauded the men and women of law enforcement for taking on the hefty challenge.
Tasked with specifically tackling gun crime in areas particularly hard hit by the violence, the mayor believes the Neighborhood Safety Teams are significantly different from the plain-clothed, Anti-Crime Units of the past due to a variety of factors.
Citing their clearly identifiable uniforms and their focus on known offenders, Adams calls the process “precision policing.”
“This is an important day as we evolved to an era of dealing with the violence we’re witnessing in our streets,” Adams said. “But let’s not kid ourselves, this is a dangerous assignment.”
According to the mayor, while the unit is donning modified police outfits, the teams will be patrolling in unmarked police vehicles, which he says both allows for the element of surprise and ensures that once they exit their vehicle, they are recognizable as members of the police department.
Adams declared that the teams have had extensive community input from clergy members and won’t be stop and frisking random members of the public. Instead, these officers will focus solely on individuals with histories of pulling triggers.
“We are producing here an elite group of men and women with specialized training and skill sets to zero in on gun violence,” Adams said.
When amNewYork Metro inquired about the amount of headway made since hitting the streets just two days ago, Chief of Department Kenneth Corey revealed that a unit in the Bronx took down a gang member and recovered a ghost gun mere hours into their first shift.
“So, the Neighborhood Safety team in the 43rd Precinct performing their first tour as a Neighborhood Safety Team about two hours into their tour at 6:37 p.m., stops an individual at the corner of Pugsley and Haviland Avenues,” Chief Corey explained. “The individual is ultimately found to be carrying a 9-millimeter pistol, a ghost gun. And that ghost gun was equipped with a laser sight and was loaded with eight rounds of ammunition. And this is the firearm in question here.”
Corey displayed a photograph of the weapon but in doing so emphasized that the suspect the unit brought into custody is even more important the firearm itself.
“He’s been arrested three times in the past 12 months in possession of an illegal gun. He’s been arrested four times since 2018 in possession of an illegal gun. In February of 2018, he was arrested for a gunpoint carjacking. In May of 2019, he stabbed a victim during a robbery. In March of 2021, he was arrested for a non-fatal shooting. In October, Halloween 2021 he’s arrested with a firearm while fleeing the scene of a non-fatal shooting,” Corey said.
Corey also divulged that every member of the NYPD Neighborhood Safety Teams volunteered for the job, but that doesn’t mean that each member secured their position easily.
The chief shared that 15-20% of those who applied did not meet the criteria. In order to be a part of the unit, officers are heavily vetted, needing recommendations from multiple high-ranking officials before being extensively researched, with top brass even going as far as to review body worn camera footage to understand how they dealt with the public.
Filming law enforcement
Stating that it is crucial to film officers to ensure they are doing their job correctly and respectfully, Adams also made a harsh rebuke of some who are recording cops in public whom he sees as harassing officers.
“We want to teach the public how to properly document if an officer is on the ground wrestling with someone that has a gun. They should not have to worry about someone standing over them with a camera,” Adams said.
Seeming to backtrack somewhat, the mayor said he believes it is in the best interest of both the officers and the public to give each other space while they work so as not to misconstrue an amateur videographer as a part of the situation they are attempting to deescalate.
“They [the officers] shouldn’t have someone standing over their shoulders with a camera in their face, yelling and screaming at them without even realizing what the encounter is all about. There’s a proper way to police and there’s a proper way to document. If your iPhone can’t catch that picture without you being at a safe distance, you need to upgrade your iPhone,” Adams said.
Ultimately, the mayor doubled down on complaints he says he has heard ever since he began campaigning for mayor: the rise in gun crime. Adams says he made a promise to curb the violence and intends to stick by that pledge.
“Crime and gun violence is rampant throughout this entire country. We have to stop the flow of guns. We have to stop those illegal manufacturers that are placing guns on our streets across the entire country,” Adams said.