Republican Mayoral Candidate Catsimatidis, Grocery Store King, Comes To Harlem And Endorses Stop-and-Frisk
Catsimatidis: Claims without Stop-and-Frisk NYC's crime rate would be like Chicago's
[Pardon My Rant]
On Saturday, June 29, 2013 five Mayoral candidates came to 135th Street and Malcolm X Blvd. in Harlem to discuss their future plans for Stop-and-Frisk in New York City.
The Republican candidate and Harlem native turned Gristedes’ CEO, John Catsimatidis, joined Democratic candidates John Liu, William Thompson Jr., Anthony Weiner, and Sal Albanese at a Mayoral Candidates’ Forum at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture sponsored by the N.A.A.C.P. Mid-Manhattan Branch, the New York Coalition of One Hundred Black Women, and the One Hundred Black Men of New York.
Christine Quinn, Bill de Blasio Joseph Lhota, and Aldofo Carrión did not show up or did not have the event on their schedule.
Fight about the Numbers
On the heels of Mayor Bloomberg making headlines for his comments on WOR-NY, stating that based on the percentage of violent crimes committed by African American suspects, the NYPD has been stopping too many White people, the candidates came prepared for a lively debate.
John Catsimatidis, who moved from Greece to West Harlem as an infant, spoke first. He praised Stop-and-Frisk and called it a deterrent saying that criminals are leaving their guns at home. He asked the crowd rather antagonistically if they wanted New York City to turn into Chicago. Currently, Chicago is experiencing four times higher crime rates. Catsimatidis also said Stop-and-Frisk will eventually go away on its own alluding to technology that the NYPD is working on that will allow weapon searches without any physical touching by Police officers. Catsimatidis said it will be similar to airport security.
This technology is dubbed the Terahertz Imaging Detection machine. This would provide Police officers the ability to view hidden weapons from a distance. NYPD Commissioner Raymond Kelly revealed this technology earlier this year. The question still remains concerning the constitutionality of invading someone’s privacy unknowingly through a virtual search. In the wake of the recent NSA scandal and based on a recent Rasmussen poll showing that fifty-seven percent (57%) of voters nationwide believe it is likely the NSA data will be used by other government agencies to harass political opponents, African Americans will not take kindly to any form of Stop-and-Frisk, physical or virtual. And virtual searches still leave the questions surrounding racial profiling unanswered.
Catsimatidis closed his remarks by stating that 20% of all the crime in New York City comes from the 325 New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) housing complexes scattered across the five boroughs. Before leaving the Candidates’ Forum an hour early due to a scheduling conflict, he revealed his newest policy position; he would increase the amount of law enforcement in those specific communities to better protect the residents of the NYCHA affordable housing complexes.
However, as John Lui pointed out, more cops do not equal less crime. During the heated discussion, Comptroller Lui described the significant decrease in Stop-and-Frisks (declining from 680,000 stops to 533,000 stops last year) while crime rates during the same time span also decreased. He also criticized Catsimatidis for “fear mongering” by equating the ending of Stop-and-Frisk to the beginnings of Chicago-level crime rates here in New York City. Lui wants to do away with the practice all together.
Anthony Weiner focused in on the public reaction to Stop-and-Frisk. He believes when people feel threatened in their own neighborhood they are less likely to cooperate with police with tips and testimonies. Rather than Stop-and-Frisk being a deterrent to crime, he suggests, it becomes a deterrent to communities working alongside the Police to lower crime together.
William Thompson chimed in saying that Stop-and-Frisk has been misused and abused and any quotas for Police should be eliminated.
Based on Spotcrime.com, there have been 11 shootings, 5 robberies, and 5 assaults within a 10 block radius of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture since January 2013. The most recent crimes have been a shooting on June 16th on Park Avenue and E131st street and an assult on June 25th on W124th street and Adam Clayton Powell.
There was a time when so-called inner city communities complained that the Police did not go to their neighborhoods enough and demanded a Police presence. Crime has since been dramatically reduced and the Police are now in our communities, but now we want to be left alone.
As an African American undergraduate student at Fordham University, I was Stopped-and-Frisked at least once every year during my four years walking on Fordham Road to and from the gated campus. I was even arrested for fitting a description and held at gun point by Police on the Halloween night of my sophomore year as a bag of candy in my possession was confiscated and searched.
However, I was also privy to the Fordham Ram files, a daily report of all the crimes impacting Fordham students from assault and batteries, to robberies, to even rapes. Without question, 90% of the time the suspects were minorities and the victims were White. While this does not provide the free pass for racial profiling this has changed the way I interact with Police officers and how I carry myself in general when I am in public as a man of color.
Areas with high crime rates like Fordham directly correlate to the socio-economic status of those communities. While New York City has about an 8% unemployment rate, African American and Latino communities have unemployment rates in closer to 15%. Additionally, after school programs that keep kids off the street have been cut as graduation rates in these communities barely reach above 50%. Fixing these issues will also address crime.
Why should Catsimatidis feel hopeful? New York City has not voted for a Democratic Mayor in over 24 years since David Dinkins. He is a self-made entrepreneur with an ear to the plight of the inner city due to the Grocery stores he owns.
Why should he be fearful? Too many times Republicans hear half the story and provide solutions that are tone-deaf to ethnic minorities (Remember: “Self Deportation”?).
Saturday, Catsimatidis left the Canidates’ Forum early and unfortunately a Republican once again only heard half the story.
Errol Pierre is a writer, political junkie, and social commentator with a passion for Healthcare Policy. He can be reached at www.errolpierre.com