New York State Governor Kathy Hochul and New York City Mayor Eric Adams on February 18, 2022 (Photo: REUTERS/Brendan McDermid)
Hyperbolic crime coverage by local media helped pave the way for former NYPD cop Eric Adams to become the mayor of New York City. But now that same media-manufactured crime panic is preventing Adams from claiming to have saved the city.
This article was originally published in Copwatch Media.
New York City’s cop-mayor is now trying to fight against the media-contrived crime panic that helped him become mayor.
Former NYPD cop Eric Adams surfed into the New York City Mayor’s office on a wave of sensationalist crime coverage by mainstream media. Adams was happy to use the non-stop, hyperbolic coverage of crime, as well as the fear engendered in the public by that coverage, in order to justify doubling down on NYC’s racist police state. However, now that he’s been mayor for almost a year and will have to accept credit or blame for what’s happening in the city, Adams is suddenly trying to assure people that the public perception and media coverage of crime doesn’t line up with reality. Unfortunately for him, regardless of the facts, mainstream local media refuse to stop their exaggerated crime coverage. In fact, Adams is being told that he is in “Fantasy Land.”
Today's cover: Eric Adams blames media for ‘perception’ of violent crime surging in NYC subways https://t.co/VcbuhQa0HN pic.twitter.com/9nat5rGx3b
— New York Post (@nypost) October 21, 2022
Last week, the New York Post published a front page mocking Adams for accurately talking about the crime rate in the subway. The front page featured a photoshopped Adams riding a winged unicorn next to the NYC skyline with doves, butterflies, a pink teddy bear, and a rainbow above it. The front page headline read “Fantasy Land” and “City is unsafe? It’s just media and false ‘perception’, mayor says.” It’s fitting that the New York Post, which has never had a problem with printing cop lies, would only become skeptical of a cop’s word when it’s the actual truth about crime.
But contrary to public perception, crime, including subway crime, is at historic lows.
the MTA did not publish @NYPDTransit crime stats this month, just this chart: pic.twitter.com/37fqTqYveV
— David J. Meyer (@dahvnyc) September 19, 2022
In September, the MTA released a line graph showing the “rate of all major felonies (murder, rape, robbery, felony assault, grand larceny) against subway customers” overlaid on a bar graph showing ridership from September 2019 to August 2022. It showed that the violent crime rate in August 2022, which was slightly over one crime per million customers, was comparable to the violent crime rate in September 2019, which was slightly below one crime per million customers.
During the interview, even NYPD leader Keechant Sewell admits that "as it stands now, crime in the subway is actually BELOW pre-COVID numbers."
But you won't see local NYC media headlines telling people that subway crime is at historic lows. pic.twitter.com/EjnyPzKzYV
— Ash J (@AshAgony) April 19, 2022
In April, during an appearance alongside Adams on ABC’s This Week, NYPD Commissioner Keechant Sewell said that subway crime at the time was “actually below pre-COVID numbers.”
In December 2021, even the MTA, while making their perennial demand for even more cops in the subway, had to admit that “subway crime totals in 2021 are the lowest in 25 years.” (The New York Post, of course, buried that quote at the bottom of an article with the headline “Subway robbery doubled in November as NYC transit crime nears 2019 levels.”)
Apologies to anyone who missed the irony in my tweet
Here’s a better visualization of crime trends in NYC in recent years – h/t @cooperlund
One violent crime is one too many. But distorting the data to amplify fears doesn’t help solve problems. pic.twitter.com/CcKg4VWNeF
— Brad Lander (@bradlander) February 16, 2022
In February, in response to Adams’ own opportunistic fearmongering about crime, NYC Comptroller Brad Lander, who himself has a history of supporting increases to NYPD’s headcount, replied with a graph (made by Cooper Lund) showing a steady decrease in the seven major felonies in NYC from 2000 to 2021.
For preliminary context, understand that police-reported crime is both a terrible approximation of harm but also is itself near historic lows even according to the police themselves. pic.twitter.com/rWYUB6bRnM
— Alec Karakatsanis (@equalityAlec) February 19, 2022
FBI data shows that the drop in the violent crime rate across the country is even more dramatic if you look at the decrease from the 1990s to the present day. And the data also shows that the current crime panic is precisely the result of mainstream media’s incessant and histrionic coverage of crime.
Even back in January of this year, rather than talking about the reality and facts, Adams spoke about the “perception of fear” in the subways and how “people feel as if the system is not safe.” He later walked back that statement after realizing that the facts didn’t matter to local mainstream media or to the people who have been thoroughly propagandized by sensationalist coverage by those same local media outlets.
The majority of Americans reported that they believe crime has increased nearly every year between 1990 and 2020, according to Gallup opinion polling. In reality, violent crime fell during all but seven of those years, and property crime fell during all but two. pic.twitter.com/2UGJ6XZZDj
— The Appeal (@theappeal) October 5, 2022
But, as The Appeal pointed out in a tweet, a 2020 Gallup Poll showed that Americans believed crime had increased nearly every year between 1990 and 2020 even though violent crime fell during all but seven of those years, and property crime fell during all but two.
A 2020 report by the Pew Research Center showed that the USA’s violent crime and property crime rate “plunged since the 1990s, regardless of data source” but that “Americans tend to believe crime is up, even when the data shows it is down.”
It's so much clearer when you see it. Despite it feeling like "crime is out of control," look at where NYC is historically. Every single person killed is one too many. Which is why we have to follow facts not fear. The small relative increase happened when the pandemic struck. pic.twitter.com/T1baZAvrHY
— Scott Hechinger (@ScottHech) July 29, 2022
A report by Bloomberg in July, which included graphs illustrating the massive drops in homicides in NYC over the years, put it even more plainly.
“Incidents of violent crime remain at historic lows in New York City,” the report stated. “But people’s views on guns and crime are often more influenced by what they see and hear, rather than by hard numbers. While homicide is the most high-profile type of crime, larceny, burglary and assault show similar trends.”
This is astonishing, yet not surprising. If it feels like you're far less safe in NYC than ever before, it's not bc shootings are up. It's because the media (fueled by lies & fearmongering by NYC Mayor Eric Adams) is up. Look at this chart. Red line is shootings. Grey is media. pic.twitter.com/taPoGWGHKv
— Scott Hechinger (@ScottHech) July 29, 2022
The report showed that media coverage of shootings in NYC vastly outweighed the number of incidents, particularly after Adams launched his mayoral campaign and after he was sworn in as mayor.
“Media coverage has followed Adams’s lead,” the report said. “There were nearly 800 stories per month across all digital and print media about crime in New York City following Adams’s inauguration, according to an analysis of data compiled by Media Cloud.”
This is astonishing. Look at how digital & print media respond to copaganda. As soon as NYC Mayor Eric Adams launched his copaganda and hate filled campaign, and then started in office, media has taken his bait. It's a scary thing to see. Extraordinary how successful he's been. pic.twitter.com/6iznpUwYwQ
— Scott Hechinger (@ScottHech) July 29, 2022
Ultimately, months after announcing his so-called “Subway Safety Plan” in February, Adams thought that the local media that helped him become mayor would continue following his lead and tell their viewers that he had saved the city from a nonexistent crime wave. Sadly for Adams, he wagered incorrectly. And from the looks of it, local media won’t stop fearmongering about crime anytime soon.
So now, Adams is desperately trying to get the golem he helped bring to life back under his control.
Rather than insist on the facts, Adams and New York Governor Kathy Hochul have decided to just continue playing into this media-manufactured mass delusion and have announced a new, expanded “Subway Safety Plan,” featuring (of course) more cops, more surveillance cameras, and a renewed crackdown on homeless people in the subway, that, Adams claims, will “address both the perception and reality of safety.”
Adams will likely try again in a few months to take credit for saving the city from an illusory crime wave, but if he thinks that local media will stop pushing the crime panic anytime soon, then he really is living in Fantasy Land.
Ashoka Jegroo is a multimedia journalist born and raised in Brooklyn, New York. Along with documenting and reporting on protests, police, and the policing of protests, his written work covers state violence against oppressed communities, radical political movements, and the fight against fascism.
He has bylines in The Santiago Times, The Appeal, Truthout, Gothamist, Shadowproof, and other outlets. He has also covered protests in New York City, Washington DC, Philadelphia, and Santiago, Chile. You can find him live-tweeting protests, exposing police lies, and critiquing mainstream media on Twitter at @AshAgony.