Steve Levy: Mayors’ life or death decision – this is how they can stop the violence


A simple decision by mayors throughout the nation will determine if thousands of people live or die. That decision is whether these cities seek the assistance of the FBI and other federal law-enforcement agencies to combat the growth of violence within their jurisdictions.

This past week, President Trump has amped up the prospect that the feds will take a  more aggressive role in intervening to quell spiraling violence if local mayors continue to fail to protect their residents and taxpayers.

As a former county executive of the largest suburban county near New York City, I can testify as to how a federal/local law-enforcement partnership decimated the MS-13 gang within our community and dropped gang-related deaths down to nearly zero in just a few months.

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As a resident in the environs of New York City, I also witnessed firsthand how a city that was a violent war zone with over 2,200 murders a year in 1990, saw an approximate 80 percent reduction in killings and became the safest big city in America, thanks to the strategies employed by Mayor Rudy Giuliani and his police commissioner, William Bratton.

Bratton’s strategy was proven successful time and time again. It started with his stint as head of the police of New York’s subways, which were once considered too far gone to remedy.

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Bratton’s philosophy, adopted from the Broken Windows Theory preached by social scientists James Q. Wilson and George L. Kelling, emphasized enforcement of violations – previously considered too petty to prosecute – in order to prevent more serious crimes from ever being committed.

Apprehending the vandals spray painting the trains and the criminals jumping the turnstiles to avoid paying a fare, not only sent a message that the police were watching the criminal element, but it also allowed police to find out what these lawbreakers – often career criminals – were up to on a larger scale.

Arresting these individuals for fare evasion takes them off the street so they can’t commit a violent crime against someone else. Questioning them after a graffiti spree or small-time drug transaction led to many searches resulting in the confiscation of guns that would otherwise have been used to kill a 3-year-old in a drive-by.

If local leaders won’t enact these proven strategies, at least they could invite the feds in to do the heavy lifting mayors are too scared or incompetent to pursue.

Bratton was eventually elevated by Giuliani to police commissioner, whereupon he implemented the CompStat program, which tracked rising crime trends and concentrated police where they were needed most.

Perhaps it was a fluke, you say. Maybe crime would’ve been gone down anyway due to the other factors. But then Bratton repeated this miracle when he was wisely hired by Los Angeles officials in 2002 after they were besieged by what seemed to be an uncontrollable crime wave. His system lowered crime there by 54 percent.

So the next question has to be: why in the world other big cities in crisis, such as Chicago, would not be begging for a guy like Bratton to come to their rescue as well? This isn’t rocket science. We know what works. It is malpractice not to implement these policies.

But if local leaders won’t enact these proven strategies, at least they could invite the feds in to do the heavy lifting mayors are too scared or incompetent to pursue. The feds know how to get it done.

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As Suffolk County executive in 2010, I created a special task force that coordinated with the FBI to crush the savage MS-13 gang that had started to take hold in our region. It worked. But my successor disbanded the coordinated effort.

That consequential decision led to the gang reconstituting and to the murder of two dozen people, many innocent high school students in the communities of Brentwood and Central Islip.

After the then-police commissioner stepped down, his replacement took the wise step of bringing back the local/federal task force I originally implemented. President Trump and then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions made personal trips to Suffolk County, promising to devote whatever funds and manpower were needed to crush the gang. They weren’t kidding. The effort was a remarkable success. Since the federal intervention, there’s been just a single MS-13  related murder registered.

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As an elected official, you either have to be incredibly stupid or just plain heartless to allow the slaughter to continue in your city when proven avenues exist to quell the violence. The only reason a local official would reject the resources, expertise and sentencing leverage available through the feds is a blind partisanship that places the hopeful defeat of a sitting president over the health and safety of defenseless populations that continue to see their children slaughtered on city streets that now resemble the chaos seen in third world nations or war zones.

The road map toward safe cities is right there for the taking. All we need is for our cities’ mayors to simply say “Yes” to the help that is being offered. Those officials who refuse the assistance are perhaps the biggest criminals of all.

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