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NYC mayor brings back NYPD plainclothes unit as part of sweeping anti-crime plan: ‘We will have boots on the ground’

In this photo from May 31, 2020, a plainclothes police officer detains and then releases a person alleged to have vandalized a store in New York City. (Stephanie Keith/Getty Images/TNS)

Mayor Adams announced Monday that he’s bringing back a controversial contingent of plainclothes NYPD cops as part of a wide-ranging plan to crack down on gun violence in the wake of a rash of deadly shootings across the city.

The plainclothes units — which were disbanded by former Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration in 2020 amid a national reckoning over police brutality — will be deployed to 30 precincts where 80% of the city’s violent crimes are reported, Adams said at City Hall.

About 400 cops are expected to join the reinstated plainclothes units, dubbed “Neighborhood Safety Teams,” and will hit the streets in the next three weeks with a mission to curb gun violence, according to Adams.

“We will have boots on the ground on every block,” said Adams, who declared gun violence “a public health crisis” and “the number one threat in our city.”

The redeployment of the plainclothes cops is part of a sprawling public safety blueprint unveiled by Adams, marking his first major policy announcement since taking office on Jan. 1.

The push for more aggressive policing comes on the heels of a shooting in Harlem this past Friday that killed rookie NYPD Officer Jason Rivera, 22, and wounded his partner, Officer Wilbert Mora, who remains in critical condition in a Manhattan hospital.

Accounting for the Friday night tragedy, five NYPD cops and even more civilians, including an 11-month-old baby in the Bronx, have been shot since Adams was sworn in a few weeks ago — putting pressure on the mayor to make good on his campaign promise to make the city safer.

His Monday announcement, which ranged from concrete policy shifts to pleas for Washington and Albany to amend or enact laws, will deliver change “quickly,” Adams vowed.

But he conceded it won’t happen immediately.

“This blueprint to end gun violence will not end this crisis overnight,” he said. “But it will represent the biggest action in years to protect New York City.”

In addition to resurrecting the plainclothes teams, Adams’ plan will pull hundreds of officers off of desk duty and deploy them into the streets and subways on patrol. In particular, more manpower and resources will be dedicated to the NYPD’s Gun Violence Suppression Unit, which focuses on hunting down weapons traffickers.

Working in concert with State Police, the NYPD will also begin performing more frequent “spot checks” of travelers arriving at bus and train stations, like Manhattan’s Port Authority, in an effort to confiscate guns making their way into New York from other states.

On an investigative level, the NYPD is expected to begin using “new technology” — including facial recognition — to find and arrest people who use and sell guns.

Adams’ campaign focused heavily on issues of public safety, and his sweeping public safety announcement was not unexpected.

Still, the plan prompted swift backlash from progressive Democrats, who were especially incensed by the return of the plainclothes units, which were long accused of disproportionally targeting Black and Hispanic New Yorkers in addition to being involved in some of the city’s most infamous police killings, including the 2014 death of Eric Garner.

“Much in the mayor’s plan is cause for deep concern,” said Queens Councilwoman Tiffany Cabán, an influential member of the Council’s large progressive caucus.

“Particularly troubling is the mayor’s proposed revival of the NYPD’s plainclothes unit. The fact is that unit was ineffective at reducing gun violence,” Cabán added, noting that the department’s own data showed that murders citywide decreased by 23.3% and shootings by 19.5% the year after the units were disbanded.


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