Opinion

New York City Has Turned A Dark Corner

DailyWire.com

“I had a long walk home in the rain. It was a very Gotham City morning.” That was how one witness to Tuesday’s horrific subway attack described leaving the scene in South Brooklyn. Everyone who lives in New York City has at least some sense of what this means. Unease on the subway, a twinge turning into a dark alley you wouldn’t have thought twice about a few years back. It feels like we are in darker times from long ago. Mired in crime and shadows. 

Aside from the huge police presence and tragic injuries, what stood out most after the subway attack was how calmly the shooting was responded to, including by heroic MTA employees in the station. In the aftermath interviews of victims, they almost all had a plaintive quality of inevitably about them. They didn’t seem sufficiently shocked. Neither does the city. 

To tell the truth, nobody has seemed shocked enough for quite some time. New York’s skyrocketing violent crime, on and off the subway, is not a minor problem to be ratcheted back with slow and steady policy. Aggressive action is needed now from Mayor Eric Adams and the city council not just to manage the decline of the city, but to reverse it. A dark corner has already been turned. 

Ten years ago, walking onto a subway train with someone smoking a joint inside of it would have been absolutely bizarre. Plainclothes cops handed out tickets for smoking cigarettes on outdoor platforms in those days; trust me, I know. Today they might as well set up smoking sections on the D train. Paying the fare seems to be optional, the cars and stations are filthy, and the homeless and mentally ill abound. It also would have helped if the security cameras on the platform at 36th Street worked. All in all, the subway system has become a sad symbol of New York’s demise.

Enforcement and upkeep matters so much because when the conditions in the subway get too permissive, it is easier for truly bad actors to be missed, to just fit in with the general disorder. That is also true of the city in general. This is at the heart of the proactive Broken Windows policing that saved New York City in the 1990s. If you enforce the smaller quality of life laws, you lose a lot fewer lives to major violent crime. This isn’t a theory, it’s a historical fact.

In an interview Wednesday morning, Eric Adams told Fox News that everyone knows he talks a lot about crime. And that’s true. What is far less clear is what he is doing about it. So far, the clear answer is not enough. Even the arrest of the alleged shooter was not so much the result of police efforts, as the fact that he, for some reason, called to give up his location to the cops.

A sense of safety is not created by crime stats; it’s created by a shared sense of the rules and a trust that most people abide by them. New Yorkers, like most urban dwellers, have a Spidey sense, a tingle when a situation just doesn’t seem right. But that sense is so overwhelmed as to be rendered useless today. Everything doesn’t seem right. For 20 years, we have lived by the motto, “if you see something, say something.” Today we see something everywhere we look. 

For several years now, as crime has crept up with open air drug deals and prostitution again the norm, people have asked me about taking their kids to visit New York. Until now, I’ve told them it’s fine, that crime is trending in a bad direction but by all means enjoy a Broadway show. Now, I’m not so sure. I can no longer simply brush off what we all see and come into contact with in a Times Square of vagrancy, crime and mental disease gone unchecked by a city government that just doesn’t seem to care.

Ultimately, New York wasn’t shocked by the subway attack because we see images of violence in the subway everyday. They are like the grainy pages of a dystopian graphic novel, like clips from a violent video game, played on an accurate map of your own hometown. But it’s real life. And yes, we think about it, now. How vulnerable we are in metal tubes careening between underground stations with few and narrow exits. Just three or four years ago we didn’t think about it at all. That is the change that matters.

It’s time to be shocked again. It’s not easy after two years in which things that seemed impossible — like shutting down the entire city — actually happened. But it’s needed. The only thing that can truly bring New York City to its knees is fear, and today, fear is back. No longer the abstract fear of numbers and trends, but a gut-level fear that colors what it means to be in New York City. If that doesn’t change, and change fast, then America’s largest city is headed for a long, dark winter. These days, it feels as though that has already arrived.

The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.

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