WASHINGTON — New York City Democratic mayoral nominee Eric Adams met with President Biden at the White House on Monday to discuss soaring rates of violent crime including murders and carjackings.
The former cop-turned-Brooklyn Borough president is the heavy favorite to succeed Mayor Bill de Blasio after narrowly winning the recent Democratic primary. His win was a blow to Democrats who advocate defunding the police following the murder last year of George Floyd by a Minneapolis officer.
Biden, seated at the center of a large boardroom table, said “most of my career I’ve been dealing with this issue,” referring to his historical anti-crime advocacy, which included authoring harsh drug laws in the 1980s and ’90s that contributed to the mass incarceration of minorities and sent some people to prison for life for dealing marijuana.
Biden emphasized in his opening remarks that the federal government was focused on “stemming the flow of firearms used to commit violent crimes,” referring to a recent initiative to crack down on gun dealers who violate policies.
The president added that localities can use leftover funds from the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 stimulus bill that passed in March “to hire police and pay them overtime,” repeating a suggestion he made last month as violent crime soared.
Adams did not make publicly viewable introductory remarks, nor did other local leaders invited to attend.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said at her daily briefing that Biden wanted to make sure localities “have the support they need to hire more police officers.”
Psaki said Biden would be “advocating for more police with better training and accountability” and “advocating for keeping illegal guns out of the hands of criminals.”
Other meeting attendees included DC Mayor Muriel Bowser, San Jose, Calif., Mayor Sam Liccardo and the police chiefs of Chicago, Memphis, Tenn., Wilmington, Del., and Newark, NJ.
De Blasio declined to say whether he was invited to the White House when asked at City Hall, but gave the impression he was left off the guest list.
“I think the White House put together a group of people that they wanted to talk to about this issue. And I think it makes sense that Eric brings a particular perspective from 20-plus years as a police officer. So I think it’s great that he is there and I want them to listen to his voice,” the current mayor said.
De Blasio said he didn’t feel slighted by not getting asked to go to the White House.
“No, look, he’s someone who spent over 20 years as a police officer and he has, I think, some great ideas about how to protect people while continuing reform. I think it’s great that they want to hear his ideas. He’s the borough president of Brooklyn — one of the biggest counties in the whole country — of course it makes sense for him to be there,” de Blasio said.
New York City Republican mayoral nominee Curtis Sliwa, however, argued that as a major-party candidate, he should have been invited as well.
“I’m the only mayoral candidate who has been actually the victim of gun violence, being shot five times by the Gottis,” Sliwa said.
“I would have hoped to have been invited. But what specifically has to be addressed today in Washington about New York is the defund the police,” Sliwa added. “President [Biden] was willing to give money [to the NYPD]. I hope Eric Adams will say, ‘Hey, the Mayor, de Blasio, should have taken the money because we need them now.’”
Although Biden said last month communities can spend COVID-19 relief money on hiring more police, de Blasio said New York wasn’t going to be hiring more cops as a result.
New York City murders are up 8.5 percent as of early July compared to the same period of 2020. Car thefts are up 24.9 percent. The increase continues a spike that began around May 2020. In 2020, New York City’s murder rate soared 44 percent, shootings were up 97 percent, burglaries were up 42 percent and car thefts increased 67 percent. Similar spikes have been seen in other major cities across the country.