Crime on New Yorkers' minds as voters head to polls in race for new mayor

·4 min read
Brooklyn borough president Eric Adams - Getty
Brooklyn borough president Eric Adams - Getty

A black former police captain is favourite to win the Democratic nomination for New York mayor as the city goes to the polls on Tuesday, in a race that has been dominated by fears over soaring crime and gang violence.

New Yorkers will pick a candidate likely go on to lead the Democratic-leaning city as it struggles through its darkest period since the 9/11 terror attacks.

Polling frontrunner in an election that comes amid a countrywide reckoning on police brutality and racism is moderate Eric Adams, borough president of Brooklyn who served in the New York Police Department for over two decades.

The primary will ultimately offer a clear sense of Democratic attitudes around confronting crime, a major national issue that has become the most urgent matter in the local mayoral primary as Covid-19 comes under control.

New York City mayoral candidate Maya Wiley hula hoops on the campaign trail - Andrew Lichtenstein/Corbis via Getty Images
New York City mayoral candidate Maya Wiley hula hoops on the campaign trail - Andrew Lichtenstein/Corbis via Getty Images


Unlike his more progressive rivals - many of whom have supported calls to defund the police - Mr Adams, 60, has said he wants for more officers on the streets.

He has been the field's most vocal advocate of stepped-up policing, calling for the return of a remodelled version of the city's controversial plainclothes anti-crime units, which were disbanded last year.

There were 490 shootings in the city between January and May of this year, up a staggering 77 per cent to the highest number in nearly 20 years. Last month a four-year-old girl was wounded by stray bullets in Times Square.

“Those shootings are going to impact our economic recovery if we don’t get them under control,” Mr Adams told the New York Post.

“No tourist is going to come to this city if a child is shot in Times Square.”

Putting a fine point on the problem, one of Mr Adams’ own campaign volunteers was stabbed with an ice pick in an attack in the Bronx on Sunday night. He is recovering now in hospital.

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Brooklyn-born Mr Adams has spoken on the trail of how he was himself arrested for trespass and beaten by officers while in police custody. He suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder after the incident but has said that the violent encounter motivated him to enter law enforcement.

Half of New Yorkers recently polled by Ipsos said safety was their top priority, while a third said Mr Adams was the best candidate to tackle crime.

The latest polls have Mr Adams leading overall with 22 per cent. Behind him is 2020 presidential candidate and tech entrepreneur Andrew Yang, on 11 per cent, followed by civil rights advocate Maya Wiley and former sanitation official Katherine Garcia, who are both hoping to become the first woman to run the city.

Andrew Yang and Kathryn Garcia, Democratic candidates for New York City Mayor, speak during a campaign appearance in New York City - Reuters
Andrew Yang and Kathryn Garcia, Democratic candidates for New York City Mayor, speak during a campaign appearance in New York City - Reuters

Should Mr Adams win the general election in November, he would become only the second black mayor in New York’s history.

The role of leading America’s biggest city - often described as the second toughest job after president - is a hugely important one.

Whoever takes on the job will take charge of a city convulsed by a public health catastrophe, economic devastation and widespread protests over the police killing of George Floyd.

The next mayor will take over from Bill de Blasio, who has proved to be one of the least popular in the city’s history - disappointing both liberals and centrists in his Democratic Party.

The lack of a serious Republican candidate and the progressive nature of the city has added to the certainty that the winner of the Democratic primary will go on to win.

The city is using ranked-choice voting for the first time in a mayoral race. Only New Yorkers’ first-choice votes will be counted right away, but their other choices could potentially be decisive. It could be days, or even weeks before a winner is declared.

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