As the New York Police Department was bracing itself last week for the annual bloodbath that is the West Indian American Day Parade, a sergeant described to me the instructions from top brass for policing both the parade and the all-night party the night before known as J’ouvert. “We are told,” she said: “‘Take glass bottles from people if they are drinking alcohol in public, and break the bottles so they can’t be thrown at us later. But if they are drinking from plastic, let it go. If they are smoking weed in public, let it go.’ J’ouvert [in particular] is where we are told not to do anything to cause a riot. There is very little enforcement going on, especially compared to the strict enforcement of public drinking at the St. Patrick’s Day and Columbus Day parades.”
The yield of the parade’s no-enforcement policy for this year is now in: two stabbings, one fatal; three shooting victims; numerous shots fired that missed their targets; a cache of recovered guns; an armed robbery arrest; and several assaults, all over the less than 24 hours from Sunday, September 6 to Monday, September 7. Past years’ victims have included a woman killed on her porch by a stray bullet in 2011 and two men stabbed to death after the parade in 2012, among other acts of violence and vandalism. The scene at J’ouvert especially is “complete chaos and out of control,” the sergeant said. “There’s no way for an ambulance or police cars to get in if there’s an issue. By around 2 or 3 AM, they start getting wilder because by now everyone is completely liquored up and high.”
The parade’s routine violence is getting more attention this year because one of the shooting victims was an aide of New York governor Andrew Cuomo. Carey Gabay was struck in the head by a bullet at around 3:40 on Monday morning, near the J’ouvert parade route. He remains in critical condition. But it shouldn’t take a high-profile casualty to realize that the NYPD’s race-driven, hands-off enforcement policy toward the parade is a capitulation to anarchy. Mayor Bill de Blasio and Police Commissioner William Bratton claim to be committed to Broken Windows policing. If ever there were a demonstration of the wisdom of that policy, it is the violence that erupts each year at the West Indian American Day Parade when quality-of-life enforcement is all but suspended.
Monday’s violence also should provide advance warning that the New York City Council’s plan to decriminalize such quality-of-life laws as public drinking and public urination is a recipe for disaster. The decriminalization agenda in New York and nationally is driven by the specious claim that enforcing the law unfairly targets blacks and subjects them to draconian penalties. The parade toll shows the opposite: the best way to save black lives is to enforce the law.