Wall Street Journal
June 2, 2015 8:37 p.m. ET

Rising Gun Crime Vexes de Blasio

Mayor says New York is safer, despite a rise in gun-related crime


New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio 

With shootings and homicides on the rise, Mayor Bill de Blasio called an impromptu news conference Tuesday to declare that the city is safer overall and that he has made improvements to the New York Police Department.

The mayor was responding to unwelcome news that emerged late Monday: Police officials said they are struggling with violence, citing a year-over-year 8.9% increase in shootings through May and a 19.5% rise in murders, from 113 to 135.

“There has been obviously an uptick in homicides and shootings,” he said. “This is something we take very, very seriously.”

Mayoral aides told reporters shortly before an unrelated bill signing on Tuesday that Mr. de Blasio would address the new crime statistics and take questions. He took three.

In response to a reporter, Mr. de Blasio said the increase in violence hadn’t changed his position to keep the NYPD head count at its current level, despite a push from some on the City Council and Police Commissioner William Bratton to increase the police-force budget for the fiscal year that begins on July 1.

He also defended the sharp curtailment in the NYPD’s stop-and-frisk encounters, saying they had formerly been “applied with such a broad brush as to be unconstitutional.”

The new statistics amounted to another difficult episode in the mayor’s challenge when it comes to changing policing policy since he took office in 2014.

He has often frustrated the rank-and-file of the NYPD with his rhetoric—about how his biracial son should interact with officers, for example.

Meanwhile, many liberal supporters don’t want more officers and want him to change the quality-of-life policing tactic known as “broken windows,” under which officers focus on small crimes hoping to prevent bigger ones.

The mayor’s aides stress the challenging nature of the situations he has addressed, including the killing of two officers late last year and weeks of street protests over police killings of unarmed black men, including on Staten Island last summer.

Mr. de Blasio appeared on Tuesday without any NYPD officials. Mr. Bratton is on vacation.

Mr. de Blasio praised the NYPD and said New York City remains the safest big city in the country. He also noted that the NYPD is redirecting officers to street patrols.

“Look, every single day I’m going over those numbers, and I feel them deeply,” the mayor said. “But at the same time we see an overall reduction in crime. We have to recognize that that trend speaks volumes too.”

—Pervaiz Shallwani contributed to this article.