Upon the heels of the bombing in Chelsea and foiled terror attempts around the metropolitan area, New York State Senator Simcha Felder (D-Brooklyn) called for the reversal of several policies that he said have “curtailed law enforcement and allowed terrorism to thrive.” Referring specifically to New York City’s controversial “stop and frisk” policy and a program designed to monitor suspicious activity in the Muslim community, as well as what he called the “demoralizing” of police, Sen. Felder said that in the face of rising terror threats, robust law enforcement must be preserved.
“Baruch Hashem, New York had a miracle with these bombings and it’s not the first miracle the city has had, but the fact is that we are throwing out universally acknowledged tools for fighting terror just when we need them the most,” the Senator told Hamodia.
The policy of “stop and frisk” allows for police to question and pat down pedestrians for weapons or other contraband. It fell under heavy criticism for disproportionately targeting black and Hispanic youth and has been greatly scaled back under Mayor Bill De Blasio, who had made his opposition to the practice a centerpiece of his campaign.
The practice is largely seen as a method of reducing street crime, but Sen. Felder said that it is an effective instrument in fighting terror as well.
“What happened this week is not a just a story about a pressure cooker; it has to be seen in a broader context of the threats that face us. Even if the effect is mostly a physiological one, if people know that they could be stopped and searched it is certainly a deterrent to terrorists as well,” he said.
Following the attacks of September 11, the NYPD maintained a special unit dedicated to surveillance of mosques and other locations in the city’s Muslim community suspected of having connections to terrorist activity. Amid accusations of profiling, Mayor De Blasio disbanded that unit soon after taking office as well.
“It’s ludicrous that at a time when New York continues to be a central target, that we have taken away one of the most effective tools to fight terror,” Sen. Felder said in reference to the monitoring program. “If you want a surgeon to operate, it’s important that he should have the best equipment available; this is no different. Any country that fights terrorism on a regular basis employs the most aggressive methods available to protect its citizens.”
In addition to policy changes, Sen. Felder sharply criticized what he identified as a lack of support towards police from city officials.
“The city has taken the people who are on the front line, taken away their weapons, and demonized them … officially crime rates have not changed, but it is not something you will see right away and people will tell you that they do not feel as safe as they used to,” he said.
The senator’s comments come shortly after he was named one of the members of a newly formed Senate Task Force on Counter Terrorism and Public Protection, which was formally announced on the 15th anniversary of the attacks on the World Trade Center. Its intended goal is to review and report on public safety efforts that have been established since 2001. The committee plans to publicize its findings and to make recommendations — including proposing future legislative and administrative actions — that will promote the improved public safety of all New Yorkers.