Increase in gun violence after the dissolution of the Anti-Crime Unit
Cops say it was one of the most dangerous jobs in the police force.
“You see the crime, you see the criminal, go get him,” said Angel Maysonet, a retired police officer with the anti-crime unit.
It was also a job that ultimately ended the life of NYPD Detective Brian Mulkeen, who was killed by friendly fire while grappling with a gunman in the Bronx. Mulkeen was part of the NYPD Anti-Crime Unit in 2019.
“Being in the fight against crime or street crime was proactive policing, jumping on people, chasing people,” Maysonet said.
Maysonet worked with the 48th District Anti-Crime Team in the Bronx.
“In the 4-8 in particular, there was a drug spot on almost every corner. So where there was drugs there had to be people who were protecting the drugs with guns,” he said. Maysonet.
The team consisted of officers in plain clothes with one main task – removing illegal weapons from the streets.
“Growing up in the neighborhood, it was exciting for me to help make a difference,” Maysonet said.
The team often came face to face with some of the city’s most violent criminals.
“Criminals at the time weren’t emboldened – they weren’t carrying guns – because they knew at any time that a cop could jump out of any vehicle, grab them and pull a gun away from them. “Maysonet said.
But the NYPD disbanded its anti-crime unit last June after a united call for police reform following the murder of George Floyd in Minnesota. NYPD commissioner Dermot Shea cited a “disproportionate” number of shootings and complaints from civilians at the time.
“We can do it with intelligence, we can do it with cunning, we can move away from brute force,” Shea said during his announcement.
Years earlier, the NYPD had taken down the very similar Street Crime Unit sometime after officers shot dead an unarmed Bronx street vendor, Amadou Diallo, in a barrage of 41 bullets.
Bronx City Councilor Kevin Riley told News 12 he had several run-ins with Anti-Crime before becoming an elected official.
“I was so scared at the time,” he said. “They held us up against the wall, put our hands behind our backs,” Riley continued.
Riley said he was 23 when anti-crime officers ambushed him and his friends as they were hanging out on 219th Street in the Bronx.
“Just because we look a certain way does not mean that we are criminals and that is how we were treated that night,” he said.
Riley said the cops thought they were robbing a house and were eventually released, but left with bad taste.
“Every time I see a mermaid behind me and get shot, my heart literally falls under my stomach and I’m not doing anything wrong,” Ivan May, one of Riley’s friends, told us.
Critics say the anti-crime team has exacerbated tensions between the cops and the community – but gun violence is skyrocketing without them. This year so far there have been over 600 shootings compared to over 300 last year. And more than double the amount compared to 2019, according to the NYPD’s CompStat tool. For Maysonet, it’s painful to watch.
“It’s like bringing a friend back to the brink of death – saving him and now watching him slowly die,” he said.
But the police still make arrests with firearms, even without Anti-Crime. At least 455 more this year compared to the same time last year, according to the NYPD.
“We are moving forward – we are now re-imagining what neighborhood policing is,” NYPD patrol chief Juanita Holmes told News 12.
Holmes said the NYPD still does the job using precision policing, which concentrates more police in specific high crime areas. She said the department is also developing technology like ShotSpotter, which uses artificial intelligence to detect gunshots.
“Forty-four percent of the times we’ve responded, arrests have been made and that’s the key,” Holmes said.
The patrol leader also stressed that cooperation is just as important.
“But for the community to do that, they have to trust.”
When Anti-Crime was disbanded, the cops became detectives or returned to patrol. Some also became members of Public Security – working with other officers to seize firearms – but in uniform rather than in civilian clothes. Critics have criticized these moves – calling them “surface level”.
“You cannot eliminate police violence by moving it from one place to another,” said Sala Cyril, spokesperson for Communities United for Police Reform.
Communities United for Police Reform continues to push for funding for the NYPD and reallocation of money to mental health and youth services. City Councilor Riley said getting rid of Anti-Crime has increased transparency and is a step in the right direction.
“I want to see my NYPD officer, I want to know your name, I want to be able to come see you if I have a problem, I really feel like the Anti-Crime Unit didn’t give us the opportunity to do .”
But Maysonet said it was Anti-Crime that helped some of New Yorkers’ most vulnerable to live more secure lives.
“If you make enemies with the police, you better befriend the criminals because that’s your only alternative.”