The morning after he was projected as the winner of New York City's Democratic mayoral primary, Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams was zeroing in on the issue that helped him surge to victory in a large field of contenders in the June 22 election.
"We have abandoned our cities," Adams, who served more than two decades in the New York Police Department, emphasized in an interview on CBS News.
"What's happening in New York City is taking place in Chicago's Southside; it's taking place in California and Atlanta. You're seeing gun violence and it's so pervasive. But it's more than gun violence. If we don't educate, we will incarcerate," Adams, who retired as a NYPD captain before entering a career in politics, added.
As the COVID crisis in the nation’s most populous city eased and crime and gun violence soared, polling suggested that public safety became the top issue among New York City voters.
Adams – as well and former city Sanitation Commissioner Kathryn Garcia, the rival he narrowly edged out in the final round of rank choice voting – both opposed funding cuts to the NYPD.
And Adams stressed in the final weeks ahead of the primary that curbing the surge in shootings would be his top priority if elected, pledging in a radio interview "to zero in on gangs and guns."
On Wednesday morning, Adams said, "We have to treat gun violence as a public health emergency. Every agency in this city, in the country, must be part of dealing with gun violence."
He vowed that if elected mayor in November, "we're not going to make laws that are going to be hurtful to the public and to our law enforcement officials."
And he had some criticism for his own party.
"When you look at the Democratic Party and you're doing an analysis, you find very few people have ever been part of law enforcement," Adams said. "And we have demonized public protection in this city and country because we have too many abusive officers who are allowed to stay in our agency. But at the same time, we have ignored the problems that fed violence in our country, and I say we need to stop doing that."
Adams' victory in the primary came on the same day that three-term Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York unveiled a seven-point anti-crime plan that included addressing gun violence like an "emergency public health issue."
"My first question is, what took so long?" Adams said when asked about Cuomo’s announcement. "And why has it taken us so long, watching these babies die, year after year after year and no one seems to care? We must have intervention and prevention."
Gun violence is sure to remain a top issue as the mayoral campaign now moves into the general election phase. Adams will face off in November against law-and-order GOP nominee Curtis Sliwa, the founder of the Guardian Angels. But in a city where Democrats outnumber Republicans by seven to one, Adams is the overwhelming favorite to succeed term-limited Democratic Mayor Bill de Blasio.
Adams last month declared himself the new "face of the Democratic Party." And his stance on crime is being compared to that of President Biden, who during last year’s presidential campaign resisted the calls by some on the left of the Democratic Party to defund the police in the wake of nationwide protests over racial inequity.
"Democrats who have been successful over the past year in competitive races have had a nuanced position on police reform and crime," veteran Democratic strategist Chris Moyer told Fox News.
Looking ahead to the 2022 midterms, when the Democrats will be defending their fragile majorities in both the House and Senate, Moyer said he thinks "Democrats running in competitive seats are not going to embrace the furthest left positions on police reform."
But Moyer, a veteran of presidential and statewide campaigns, criticized congressional Republicans, arguing that "it's clear that one party doesn't want to do anything about gun violence."