Opinion: New York Crime Isn’t Mind Over Matter

By Sara Lehmann

Police block off streets near the United Nations headquarters, Tuesday, Sept. 21, 2022, in New York. (AP Photo/Julia Nikhinson)

According to Governor Kathy Hochul, it seems that I have lost my mind.

Trying to minimize the crime crisis threatening to derail her campaign, Hochul asserted at a press conference last Monday that the violent crime New Yorkers are daily witnessing on the streets and subways is a figment of their imaginations. The few “high profile” crimes, the governor insisted, “created a sense of fear in people’s minds.” And she refused to cave to what she termed the “political theater” surrounding rampant crime.

This remark followed Mayor Eric Adams’ similar characterization of crime concerns being simply a “perception” problem. A statement which itself defies reality, since major crime in New York City has surged 39% this past year alone. And a poll last June revealed that more than seven in 10 New Yorkers fear they will become a victim of violent crime.

A day after her statement, Hochul realized that this perception problem she shares with Adams was actually her own political one. With Congressman Lee Zeldin closing in on her in the polls, she tried to switch gears at last Tuesday’s debate by admitting that “the fear is real.” But she refused to change course on the disastrous cash bail laws, even when pressed by Zeldin.

I, for one, am not falling for Hochul’s mind games. The deterioration of my quality of life in NYC is not a figment of my imagination. And neither Hochul nor Adams can change the facts on the ground when it is the ground that I walk on.

I have never been a fearful straphanger. I often took the subway trains at night by myself. However, with one exception, I have not stepped foot on a train for the past two and a half years.

Several months ago, I had an event to attend in lower Manhattan on a Sunday morning. My husband tried to convince me that the trains were fine, but instinct, born of constant horror stories, held me back. I took an Uber instead. A few hours later, I heard that a man was randomly shot and killed on the very Q train heading from Brooklyn to Manhattan that I had considered taking.

When I did cave a few weeks ago and accompanied a friend to my second event in Midtown Manhattan in as many years, I was struck by the paucity of riders at the height of rush hour. While I struggled to find a working subway card machine, my friend watched in shock as a long line of riders, all minorities, brazenly entered the station through the security door without paying, even as a group of emasculated police officers stood huddled nearby. Apparently, walking through a door demands less exertion than jumping a turnstile.

Aside from these trips and a few doctor appointments, I have avoided travel to Manhattan, a place I had previously loved to visit. The fear of crime, filth, rampant spectacles of perversion, and the homeless, who appear to me as so many apparitions of threat, dissuade me from visiting the city again anytime soon.
But I don’t fare much better in my own Brooklyn neighborhood. Gone are the times when I would take nightly solo power walks down Ocean Avenue. I hesitate to do so even in someone else’s company.
Daylight does not bring immunity with it. Last year, a minority teenager shot and killed another teenager in broad daylight two blocks from my home. Assaults, violent robberies and homelessness are on the rise in this once-quiet community, day and night.

As an Orthodox Jew in a predominantly Orthodox-Jewish area, the dangers are amplified. Identifiable Jews now are constantly looking over their shoulders. My son, who is in a local yeshivah, recently had an evening appointment. My husband insisted on picking him up rather than have him walk several short blocks. This time I balked, but my husband’s caution was justified. That same evening, several men in a car accosted three boys from my son’s yeshivah at gunpoint and hurled antisemitic epithets at them. It was not the first time guns were brandished at yeshivah boys in that vicinity.
In another incident, in what is becoming a sadly familiar set of circumstances, a gang of five antisemitic teenage boys attacked three other yeshivah students a few blocks from my house. The attack occurred on the same day Hochul claimed the fear was in “people’s minds.” The thugs yelled “Free Palestine,” punched one of the boys in the face and threw eggs at them. It was the third antisemitic attack in Brooklyn in four days.

A few months ago, police rang the bell at my sister’s house, which is several blocks from mine. They were looking for surveillance tape from her porch camera showing a woman violently attacking an elderly Orthodox Jewish couple with a stick while screaming “dirty Jew.” The camera showed the footage.
This is not the stuff of fearmongering. This is my reality. And that of my family, friends, and neighbors. I have not become a hermit or allowed fear to take over my life. But I am vigilant in a way I never had to be before. And don’t want to be anymore.

It is the foremost role of government to protect its citizens. We are suffering under skyrocketing inflation, mainly due to out-of-control Democrat spending, a shaky job market, and threats to yeshivah education. But absent law and order, no modification will restore a quality of life to New York that makes it worth living here.

Hochul uttered a truly mind-boggling comment during the one debate she agreed to against her Republican challenger. When questioned by Zeldin about her failure to lock up criminals, Hochul replied, “Anyone who commits a crime under our laws…has consequences. I don’t know why that’s so important to you.”

I can tell Hochul why that’s important. And so can the hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers who fled the state. It is an urgent message that needs to reach those New Yorkers who insist on putting politics ahead of their own personal safety. But perhaps they’re the ones who have really lost their minds. n

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