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New York City debunks Justice Department's claim that it's "soft on crime"

The New York Police Department snapped back at the Justice Department Friday after the agency accused the police force of being “soft on crime.”

The Justice Department made the accusation as part of a warning to nine jurisdictions across the country that it says are violating a federal law prohibiting state and local governments from blocking their employees’ from communicating with Immigrant and Customs Enforcement.


“Many of these jurisdictions are also crumbling under the weight of illegal immigration and violent crime,” reads the announcement, adding that the Justice Department is sending each of these nine jurisdictions letters cautioning them that they risk losing federal funding if they don’t comply with the law. “The number of murders in Chicago has skyrocketed, rising more than 50 percent from the 2015 levels. New York City continues to see gang murder after gang murder, the predictable consequence of the city’s ‘soft on crime’ stance.”

Not only does this statement appear to associate undocumented immigrants with violent crime — a connection unsupported by research — but it is inaccurate, at least for New York. New York Police Commissioner James O’Neill pointed that out on Twitter, calling the Justice Department’s statement a “willful distortion of the facts.”

“New York City is experiencing a steady decline in overall crime that includes major reductions in murder and shootings,” he said in a statement posted to Twitter Friday. “In fact, 2016 saw the fewest shootings in New York City history since record keeping began.”

“Additionally, over the past year NYPD has hosted dozens of other police departments from across the world to share our best practices of precision policing, which focuses on the most serious criminals,” O’Neill concluded.

According to the statement, New York saw nearly 2,000 murders in 1993; by contrast, only 335 murders took place in 2016. Overall crime also dropped by 76 percent during that time period.

All of the jurisdictions that received letters are so-called “sanctuary cities,” an unofficial label for jurisdictions that refuse to detain undocumented immigrants accused of crimes until immigration agents can show up. An executive order earlier this year threatened to strip those jurisdictions of federal funding; these letters appear to be part of the government’s attempt to make good on that promise. However, the law that the order accused these jurisdictions of breaking — the same law mentioned in the Justice Department’s Friday announcement — does not require jurisdictions to hold immigrants just because the federal government wants them to.