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A Concrete Jungle Where Bad Dreams Are Made Of
Migrants have learned that there’s nothing they can’t do in New York, from shoplifting to assault.
By Allysia Finley, WSJ
Feb. 11, 2024 11:46 am ET
When I stepped outside the Journal’s Midtown Manhattan offices shortly after 8 p.m. Thursday, I entered a crime scene. Police had blocked off the street. A helicopter circled overhead. If I had left an hour earlier, I might have been sprayed by a stray bullet—as an innocent tourist a few blocks over had been.
It was my second close run in a week. The previous Saturday evening, a man standing a few feet from me on a street corner was sucker-punched in the head. There but for the grace of God go I and every New Yorker.
According to media accounts of Thursday night’s shooting, a security guard at a Times Square sporting-goods store confronted a trio of young migrant men who were shoplifting. One pulled out a gun and fired at the guard, missing but striking a Brazilian tourist in the leg.
One of the three stayed behind, but the shooter and his other friend ran off. Cops captured the friend. The gunman, however, kept running and shot at the pursuing officers on the block adjacent to the Journal before ducking into a subway entrance. Fortunately, he missed and didn’t hit any bystanders.
Police on Friday afternoon hunted down and arrested the suspected shooter, a 15-year-old Venezuelan migrant who had been staying at a hotel that was converted into a migrant shelter. He is also a suspect in a gunpoint robbery and another shooting incident in Midtown Manhattan last month, according to police.
He is being held without bail. Maybe prosecutors learned a lesson from the public uproar after migrants who were filmed allegedly kicking two police officers in Times Square last month were released. One of them reportedly had two prior arrests for assaulting retail employees who had tried to stop him from shoplifting.
Conservatives describe the process by which migrants are apprehended and let loose at the southern border as “catch and release.” This is New York’s version of the practice.
Passing through Times Square on my way home Thursday, I heard Alicia Keys and Jay-Z’s hit song “Empire State of Mind” blasting. The song was released in 2009 when I first moved to the city, fresh out of college. It felt inspiring then: “Concrete jungle where dreams are made of / There’s nothin’ you can’t do / Now you’re in New York.” Those lyrics have since taken on a decidedly different meaning. New York has become a lawless jungle where bad dreams come true and there’s nothing miscreants can’t do.
It’s tempting to blame the city’s crime on the surge of migrants. The bigger problem, it seems, is its law of the jungle. Migrants have figured out that shoplifting, pickpocketing and violence go unpunished. They consequently run wild, as native-born criminals do. Heaven help anyone standing in their way.
Consider the young man next to me on Saturday when he was struck by an assailant running by. It was around 9 p.m., a block from my apartment.
A food-delivery man, a Good Samaritan, stopped and dragged the hulking man out of the street. I hovered to see if he was all right. His eyes rolled toward the back of his head, and his body was limp. A foreign tourist called 911 and, because she couldn’t speak English, handed me her phone.
I told the emergency dispatcher that a 20-something man had been hit and was evidently unconscious. The first question the dispatcher asked: What is the race of the victim? Black, I answered. Next question: What is the race of the attacker? Black, I replied, exasperated.
The dispatcher then asked what the attacker was wearing and in what direction he went. She then transferred me to another dispatcher, who inquired about the young man’s medical condition. Two cops showed up within minutes, but they couldn’t do anything. An ambulance arrived not long after that and whisked the victim away. During the early days of the pandemic, the sound of sirens triggered thoughts that someone had fallen severely ill with Covid. When I hear a siren now, I wonder who has been stabbed, smacked or shot.
The food-delivery man speculated that the attacker might have been fleeing after committing another crime and struck the man because he was in his way. It’s possible. Random assaults by the drug-addled and mentally ill aren’t uncommon, a key difference between today’s New York and its high-crime days four decades ago.
An Amazon delivery driver last month was randomly slashed across the face by a man wearing all black and a ski mask. “He didn’t take nothing. He just wanted to cut me, I guess,” the 23-year-old driver said.
It’s hard to ignore the link between the city’s retreat from prosecuting nonviolent offenses—misdemeanor arrests for dangerous drugs plunged by 94% between 2010 and 2022—the end of stop-and-frisk policing, and the rise in violence. Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg is more interested in prosecuting Donald Trump and New Yorkers who bought fake Covid vaccine cards than menacing criminals.
Innocent New Yorkers pay the price, sometimes with their lives. No wonder so many are migrating to Florida.
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