AOC Links Coronavirus-Related Economic Insecurity to Crime Uptick in NYC

Lead Photo: Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) speaks during a Green New Deal For Public Housing Town Hall on December 14, 2019 in the Queens borough of New York City. Photo by Yana Paskova/Getty Images
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) speaks during a Green New Deal For Public Housing Town Hall on December 14, 2019 in the Queens borough of New York City. Photo by Yana Paskova/Getty Images
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Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez discussed violence and policing in New York during a recent Zoom conference with constituents. In it, AOC suggested that the uptick in crime reports in the city could be due to the growing economic insecurity due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The conference addressed nationwide calls to reform and defund law enforcement, including passing legislation that would increase police transparency and hold officers accountable.

Throughout the 30-minute digital conversation, published Sunday on The Hill’s YouTube channel, the congresswoman fielded questions from constituents. Among them was an inquiry around crime and unemployment.

“Why is this uptick in crime happening? Well, let’s think about it. Do we think this has to do with the fact that there’s record unemployment in the United States right now?” asked Ocasio-Cortez. “Maybe this has to do with the fact that people aren’t paying their rent and are scared to pay their rent… They’re put in a position where they feel like they either need to shoplift some bread or go hungry that night,” she continued.

Her comments directly pushed back on claims that the New York Police Department (NYPD) is witnessing increased crime rates because of budget cuts. Two weeks ago, city officials voted to reallocate $1 billion in budget funds away from the police department during the 2020-21 fiscal year. However, as Ocasio-Cortez explained, these cuts have not been implemented yet.

“Keep in mind that this uptick in crime that’s happening right now is with a $6 billion New York City Police Department budget,” she said. “We have shoved more, and more, and more money every single year into the NYPD. Six billion dollars. It has not prevented this uptick in crime.”

While several reports have linked crime to poverty, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo dismissed AOC’s argument, even calling it “factually impossible.”

“It is factually impossible that somebody committed a crime so they could pay their rent,” the governor said. He added that the increase in crime is dominated by shootings and violent offenses.

According to data from the NYPD, there have been more murders, shootings and burglaries this year compared to 2019. The most significant increase reportedly came from firearms, with 48 shootings taking place on July 5, more than a 550% climb from the same date last year.

The governor also resisted Ocasio-Cortez’s suggestion by insisting his executive orders and legislation, particularly the Tenant Safe Harbor Act, ensure New Yorkers can’t be kicked out of their homes for not being able to pay rent during the pandemic.

“If you can’t pay your rent, you cannot be evicted right now,” he said.

However, as noted by AOC’s spokeswoman Lauren Hitt, Cuomo’s eviction moratorium expires next month.

“Tenants are currently receiving eviction notices because they are unable to pay months of back rent. In less than a month, families can be legally forced from their homes,” Hitt told the Daily News. “With no financial aid or extended eviction moratorium from the state or federal government in sight, people are desperate now and facing tremendous uncertainty.”

As such, Ocasio-Cortez is among a group of progressive politicians and activists calling on Cuomo to cancel rent in New York during the pandemic.

“Crime is a symptom of a diseased society that neglects its most marginalized people, and we do not solve that with police,” AOC said during the conference.