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After shooting NYPD Officer Dennis Vargas in the Bronx Tuesday night, Rameek Smith was shot dead by police. Thankfully, Vargas is already home from the hospital. While Smith’s family may mourn him; we won’t. But we will spare a moment to say our last goodbyes to a few myths propagated by progressives in the ongoing rhetorical gunfight over how to keep the city safe.
Myth one: Fare evasion enforcement is an utter waste. In March 2020, cops caught Smith trying to get on the subway at Coney Island without paying — and found a loaded .32-caliber weapon on him. Not everyone who jumps a turnstile is a violent criminal, of course, but, according to the folks who run the MTA, “people who commit robberies and violent crimes generally don’t bother with MetroCard swipes or OMNY taps.” Even if the vast majority of fare evaders just get ticketed and not arrested, more enforcement can identify people with outstanding warrants or weapons.
Myth two: Mayor Eric Adams’ reanimated versions of the previously plainclothes anti-crime units disbanded under Mayor Bill de Blasio do no good and lots of harm. Vargas, a member of one of those now-uniformed units, was sitting with his partner in an unmarked car when they spotted Smith on the street and pursued him, thinking he was carrying an illegal weapon. He was, this time a Glock 9mm, stolen in Virginia.
Myth three: Holding people in jail pre-trial hardly ever protects the public; it’s merely fuel on the fire of mass incarceration. When Smith finally came before a judge for his March 2020 gun arrest in October 2020, an unconscionable delay due to courts largely grinding to a halt during COVID — prosecutors, citing the charge and his criminal history (he had robbed a 19-year-old autistic man in Staten Island in 2016) — requested $50,000 bail. The judge cut Smith loose.
Myth four: Enhanced social services often obviate the need for policing or, as the Legal Aid Society put it, Smith’s case “underscores the need for early intervention, access to services and community-based support.” When he pled guilty last December, Smith entered the alternative-to-incarceration program his lawyer requested; it included group sessions, mentoring and regular drug and alcohol testing. Services are valuable and help many troubled people turn their lives around. This man stayed a criminal, and he’s not the only one.
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