NYPD Officer Dennis Vargas leaves the hospital after being wounded in a shootout with suspect Rameek Smith, in the Bronx, early Wednesday, May 11, 2022.

POLITICS: Adams must do more than complain about criminal coddling

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Another day, another dreary tale of near catastrophe on the streets of New York City.

Police Officer Dennis Vargas was recovering Wednesday from a line-of-duty gunshot wound suffered in the early-morning hours during a Bronx shoot-out.

Not so fortunate was 25-year-old Rameek Smith, fatally wounded after opening fire on officers who were attempting to arrest him. Police said one of his bullets struck Vargas, who is expected to recover.

It wasn’t long before Mayor Eric Adams — freshly returned from A-list socializing in Los Angeles — weighed in. He correctly noted that Smith, who had a lengthy criminal record, was on the street because of Albany’s permissive approach to violent crime.

“The number of shootings we respond to every night is despicable,” declared Hizzoner — never at a loss for combative rhetoric when the occasion calls for it.

Which might not be every night — but close enough. And hot-weather bloodletting is fast approaching.

Yet Adams has been mayor for four-plus months; while it’s too soon to expect a turnaround, there’s not a lot of evidence that his promised crime crackdown has advanced beyond the combative-rhetoric stage.

Talk is necessary, sure, but it’s also cheap. Results, always elusive, require discipline, determination and the focused application of pile-driver political force — and if any of those elements are present in the Adams administration, they are well-hidden.

Which has consequences.

NYPD Officer Dennis Vargas leaves the hospital after being wounded in a shootout with suspect Rameek Smith, in the Bronx, early Wednesday, May 11, 2022.
NYPD Officer Dennis Vargas leaves the hospital after being wounded in a shootout with suspect Rameek Smith, in the Bronx, early Wednesday, May 11, 2022.

Rameek Smith had been convicted of robbery in 2016; he was sentenced to five years’ probation. In 2020, he was arrested on gun-possession charges in a Coney Island subway station.

This alone should have been enough to put Smith behind bars for probation violation — but it gets worse. After pleading guilty to the Coney Island gun charges last year, he remained free pending sentencing — which was repeatedly delayed.

“Here’s the problem,” Adams said early Wednesday. “The arrest was March 2020, and for 20 months after the arrest he remained on the streets.”

Rameek Smith mugshot.
Rameek Smith, a 25-year-old repeat offender, died after opening fire on NYPD officers.

Then came the fatal shoot-out. While nobody wants anybody dead, it could just as easily have been Rameek Smith recovering from a non-life-threatening gunshot wound Wednesday morning — and New York City preparing another inspector’s funeral for a murdered officer.

Which, for those who may have forgotten, would have been the third this year. And which would have been accompanied by more combative mayoral rhetoric.

Which would have changed nothing.

Such was made clear this week by The Post’s Nolan Hicks and Bernadette Hogan, who laid out in depressing detail this administration’s inability to define — let alone to defend — the city’s interests in Albany.

There’s not much of importance to Gotham that New York’s capital city doesn’t have outsized influence over. Penal-law reform, school governance, subsidized housing, tax structure — even the authority to maintain traffic-control cameras — are all decided in Albany.

And, as Hicks and Hogan recount, all are twisting in the wind right now for lack of mayoral attention.

Certainly the three-year-old criminal-justice “reforms” imposed by then-Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the Legislature are hitting New York City particularly hard.

Yet there is no indication that Albany crime coddlers have any interest in public safety. Just as there is no evidence that Cuomo’s hand-picked successor, Gov. Kathy Hochul, has the good sense or courage to insist on reforming the “reforms.”

Mayor Eric Adams, NYPD Commissioner Keechant Sewell and police officials discussing the rising threat posed by ghost guns and the easy access to criminals have to them.
Adams has repeatedly called for amendments to the 2019 bail reform law.
William Farrington

So what’s a mayor to do?

Something other than complain, one would hope. But so far that’s pretty much all Adams has been doing.

Yes, talk matters — especially if it is properly focused and names the right names. Adams needs to call out Hochul for her refusal to engage; he needs to note the blood on the hands of Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, too.

Beyond that, as Hicks and Hogan reported, the mayor needs to assemble an effective Albany lobbying effort aimed at promoting the city’s interests generally — and on winning criminal-justice change in particular.

Police stand guard in a subway.
Post reporters note that Adams needs to assemble an effective Albany lobbying effort aimed at promoting the city’s interests, particularly about rising crime.
Peter Gerber

Mayors and governors are always on the outs because their political and policy interests so rarely coincide. But Adams seems to be surrendering the field without a fight; this is hard to understand.

More is at stake than penal-law reform, for sure. But there’s nothing more important than safe streets — and if Adams concedes that point up front, not much else is going to matter.

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