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Wake-up call

Hochul's Five Points: None too sharp


Five Points was the name of a squalid, crammed and lawless 19th century New York City slum. It was the setting of the film Gangs of New York, in which Daniel Day-Lewis portrays the brutal lowlife Bill the Butcher, who is buried in the same Brooklyn cemetery as the sublime conductor and composer Leonard Bernstein.

Governor Kathy Hochul has announced her own five points plan. 

It is unrelated to the wild and wooly neighborhood but is equally notable for its shadiness. Hers is a rational-sounding ruse to make our subways appear safer by duping and beguiling the public, so we will be more amenable to taking chances with their lives.  

The  solution is an optical illusion designed as hypnotherapy for the masses. The plan's bullet points are hollow and its strategy is counterproductive. It tastes of verbiage bisque and smacks of shameless nitwitery.

In “A Modest Proposal,” the 18th century satirist Jonathan Swift identified numerous problems plaguing society, such as poverty and food scarcity, and proposed novel remedies for them. For instance, the cannibalization of destitute children, (who not coincidentally belonged mostly to a victimized religious minority,) and institutionalizing them as an edible commodity.

Hochul has her own recipes. It is a five-ingredient stew. What will their collateral benefits be for New Yorkers? What will they prove? 

Her plan struggles to deal with reality without first acknowledging it accurately. It will not diminish justified fear. It may, however, soothe and soften our sense of imminent menace. The CompStat numbers will be massaged and its analytics serve as a gravy of faulty correlations.

The plan provides no disincentive to criminality. There are no punishments (not to criminals, anyway) The dainty mimicry of prosecution doesn't fool anyone. Sanctions are cosmetic. Window dressing. 

The wage of assault and battery is a voucher for more wrongdoing. The long arm of the law is severed from the body of public interest. Prosecutors and judges sometimes cite the constraints of the law to disguise and distract from their overriding drive and priority, which is to exercise their personal philosophies of crime and punishment. Suspects in dismemberment cases or filmed attacks against police remain at liberty with the system's blessing. 

In practice, the rights of the accused are inviolable and limitless. Common sense, the public interest and the Constitution are laughingstocks.

Subway riders know this, even as they witness the National Guard fashion show. Hochul will deploy these soldiers in numbers that average less than two per subway station. They might as well be cardboard cutouts, like those figures with which tourists, when they still felt welcomed and visited the city, liked to take selfies. At ease!

Empathy and redress for victims is a mandate of justice but no longer of the interpreters of law.  Measures to preempt crime are viewed as a provocative human rights violation by the same people who are pushing Hochuls's plan, which does nothing substantive to give mass transit users a modicum of newfound serenity. I recall years ago a huddle of long-gun-toting National Guardsmen hanging out in Penn Station in front of a store selling pink cotton candy like they sell in amusement parks and circuses.  

Optics are the life of the party. Both parties.

The National Guard will no longer have their long guns when doing bag inspections, as originally intended. Why the reversal? Were they unnecessary in the first place? Were they essential to the mission? If not, the plan wasn't thoroughly thought through in the first place and should have been dismissed and never announced. But if it was abandoned because of optics and political pressure, then it suggests that public safety is secondary to the primary priority of public relations.

The bag inspections will be no deterrent unless they are done without fear or favor. Of course, there must be no leeway for abuse. But there must be latitude and room for the inspectors' initiative in the selection of subjects. Selection is not an exact science. It is determined by multiple factors, intuition being one of them.  

Obviously "red flags" suggesting overzealous enforcement must be seriously investigated. But officers doing inspections shouldn't need to fear meeting arbitrary productivity goals or a quota-based tabulation of data. They shouldn't be court-martialled for having opened the bags of one too many Pacific Islanders.

Hochul's plan also calls for closed-circuit television in subway cars and conductor cabins. Cameras are evidence-gathering assets, but do not avert crime. Will they be monitored in "real time" by officers able to respond immediately?   

Given the blank check that violent recidivist felons receive as a matter of judicial course, they may be attracted to those cameras like moths to light bulbs, in the hope of a future as an "influencer" on YouTube.

The governor has committed to a "better coordination between NYPD and district attorneys to thwart recidivists.” Recidivists will be thwarted only when the consequences they suffer are greater than the temptation to do wrong. There cannot be "better" coordination where there is presently next to none, or as long as there is zero tolerance of letting the chips fall where they may, if they don't fall convenient to a particular political agenda. 

NYPD officials, except those above a certain pay grade who are LEONO ( Law Enforcement Officers In Name Only), are generally alienated and disillusioned with the reinvented judicial system, which they claim renders district attorneys into defense counsel impersonators.

It defies logic and beats the hell out of credibility, to profess a desire to "thwart recidivism" when it is common knowledge that violent felons are, within an abbreviated period of time, rearrested dozens of times for the identical crimes. Hochul and Mayor Eric Adams properly emphasize law enforcement's targeting of recidivists, but their rhetoric leaves us to insinuate that they're largely on board with the judicial system giving each offender at least one freebee.

Hochul's ambition to "expand subway co-response outreach mental health teams" sounds like recycled hoodwinking. As described, it sounds like a clone of the billion-dollar ThriveNYC  fiasco of the de Blasio administration, but with a more modest sticker price. The fate of that investment has replaced the Amelia Earhart mystery as a brain-teaser.

Let's be charitable and say that was then and this is now. Still, any attempt to fix the problem of emotionally disturbed persons in the subways, some of whom are homeless, will be a bust, even when grounded and driven by the best intentions, unless there is expanded legal authority to coerce non-compliant individuals who will not voluntarily submit to treatment or relocation, even when their lives are at stake.

The HIPAA privacy laws, though designed to protect the confidentiality of medical records, even of the most vulnerable, unstable and often mentally incompetent people, have the paradoxical effect of endangering and sometimes killing them. The law must be amended or else the promised commitment to address the crisis is just ballyhoo and fluff.

Hochul seeks to "allow judges to ban anyone who has been convicted of an assault in transit from riding the subway or buses.” Convicted sexual perverts are already forbidden for up to three years. Five years ago, a City Council member from Brooklyn tried unsuccessfully to have them banned for life.

It's unenforceable, as is the touted exclusion of perpetrators of assaults against MTA employees. Last week another MTA worker was attacked. Odds are his assailant wasn't embargoed for three hours.   

Crafters of public policy sometimes equate an expressed ideal with a consummated reality. Hochul, sounding like Queen Elizabeth I when she rallied her forces against the Spanish Armada,  vowed "I will not stop working to keep you safe and restore your peace of mind whenever you walk through those turnstiles.”

Not as long as turnstile jumpers are robbing the city of more than its projected revenues from congestion pricing.

Will there be officers at every entry to every station, connected by handheld device to a national crime center database? Will they be able to identify those hits before they can grace the smutty platforms? Or will the career-ready felons be asked to police themselves?

Hochul's Five-Point Plan: None too sharp.

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