New York has created three task forces aimed at streamlining the city’s justice system in the hopes of decreasing violence, officials announced Sunday.
City officials touted frank discussions on crime solutions with criminal justice stakeholders at a two-day summit with Mayor Eric Adams held at Gracie Mansion, the official mayoral residence, on Saturday and Sunday.
The three task forces will address sharing information and discovery – which pertains to getting evidence to defense attorneys – mental health and other urgent action items, such as modernizing the criminal justice system to expedite the length of time it takes to see a judge at arraignment.
“The goal this weekend was to say, ‘Hey, let’s find our common ground. What are the common grounds we have?,’” Adams said on a conference call with reporters, adding that despite debate, they were able to find areas where they could make improvements.
“We did, I believe, receive 100% buy-in that this system is antiquated and it’s not matching the desire of a 21st century criminal justice system,” Adams said in a one-on-one interview with CNN. “Everything from technology to the collection of evidence, (to) time in court.”
“There’s no reason we’re not using a centralized portal to share that information,” Adams said during the conference call. “And we’re going to look at the technology that’s out there that allow us to look at the mounds of information and evidence that both defense attorneys and prosecutors must look at and judges must look at. There must be a better way of doing that.”
Brendan McGuire, counsel for the mayor, spoke about providing mental health services that would involve engaging with people right outside the courthouse. McGuire said the city is exploring options like having a van parked outside the courthouse that would be complete with wrap-around services for those just coming out of the criminal justice system.
“Not providing them with an appointment in the future. Not asking them on their own to get to a location on their own at some defined date in the future, but to immediately engage with them right away,” McGuire said.
During a Saturday news conference, New York Gov. Kathy Hochul and Adams spoke about plans to bolster their efforts to combat crime and mental illness in the city’s subway system with an increased police presence and new training for officers on engaging with homeless individuals.
The city has been reeling from several recent high-profile violent crimes – three murders occurred on the subway this month alone, bringing the 2022 total to nine – prompting officials to enhance crime-fighting strategies.
The new initiatives will include a significant investment from the state’s public emergency fund to support a surge of roughly 1,200 additional overtime officer shifts on subway platforms and trains each day.
The transit authority will also employ unarmed security guards at turnstiles to increase security presence and deter fare evasion, Hochul said.
Responding to the general public’s fear of the seemingly pervasive violence in the city, Adams told CNN Sunday: “I have to address that fear. So what are we doing? We have this large amount, this omnipresence, of police officers.”
He added that nothing “dissipates violence” more than having a police officer “doing actual patrol.”
And then we’re going to not be passive in dealing with those who have real mental health issues on our subway system,” he told CNN. “We got rid of the encampments. We got over 2,000 people off our system that were living on our system that couldn’t take care of themselves.”
There are an average of more than 3.5 million riders on the New York subway system on a weekday. The highest number of transit crimes since the police started tracking crime statistics was recorded in 1999, a total of 3,524 crimes from January into October, according to city data.