This is the fourth part of a Fox News Digital series about "defund the police" politicians and crime in the areas they represent.
Even with Big Apple murder rates similar this year compared to last, other major crimes have surged, police statistics show - and polls find New Yorkers are fed up.
Democratic New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has been one of the most vocal and high-profile lawmakers to demand the defunding and dismantling of American police departments, including in her own district, where major crime has climbed steadily over the past two years.
When former Mayor Bill de Blasio proposed slashing the NYPD's budget by $1 billion in 2020, she called it a "disingenuous illusion" and doubled down.
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"Defunding police means defunding police," she said at the time. "It does not mean budget tricks or funny math. It does not mean moving school police officers from the NYPD budget to the Department of Education's budget so the exact same police remain in schools."
But public safety costs money, according to experts, and residents are concerned for their own welfare.
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"When you don't have the funding to put enough people in your detective bureau to investigate and clear those serious crimes like homicide, of course your clearance rate is going to be abysmal," Betsy Brantner Smith, a retired police sergeant and spokesperson for the National Police Association, told Fox News Digital. "Also, look at programs like community policing: the better relationship you have with your community as a police department the more info you're going to get out of your citizens when it comes to serious crime."
According to Brantner Smith, the progressive narrative that police officers are "terrorizing" minority communities is a dangerous myth. The NYPD, in particular, has a majority of its roster made up of minority officers.
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"Her safety's never in jeopardy, but all those crime victims in her district, they have to worry about their safety," Brantner Smith said. "If all these defund the police politicians had to walk the same streets as their constituents they would sing a very different tune, but they don't."
New York City's homicide rate has remained relatively flat over the past two years. But after the slaying of George Floyd in Minneapolis fueled a national "defund the police" campaign, which Ocasio-Cortez endorsed, NYPD statistics show dramatic increases in other major crimes.
According to Paul Mauro, an attorney and former NYPD inspector, key major crimes to watch are robberies and burglaries - highly invasive profit-motivated crimes that often involve repeat offenders.
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"Particularly robberies, as a robbery is essentially larceny plus violence," he told Fox News Digital. "Rising robbery numbers are very detrimental to a sense of street safety. Someone is taking your stuff, and they're willing to hurt you to do it - and they're doing it right on the street in your neighborhood."
He wrote a recent Fox News Digital opinion piece on the "defund" movement.
Citywide crime statistics show that major crimes have increased by more than 36.64% so far this year over 2021 and increased another 37.35% since 2020. Robberies and burglaries, Mauro's bellwethers, climbed by 39% and 32%, respectively.
In precincts that police portions of Ocasio-Cortez's middle- and working-class district, the numbers have also increased.
In the NYPD's 43rd Precinct, covering the Southeast Bronx, robberies soared 70% between the start of the year and Aug. 7, the most recent date for which statistics are available.
Burglaries were up more than 30%. To the north in the 45th Precinct, robberies were up more than 12% this year compared to last but more than double the 2020 total. In the 49th, robberies also climbed, but burglaries were down significantly - 20% lower than 2021 and almost 30% lower than 2020.
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In the 114th, a relatively safe area that covers parts of Astoria, Woodside and Jackson Heights in Ocasio-Cortez's congressional district, year-to-date robberies were up nearly 20% compared to 2021 and more than 56% higher than in 2020. Burglaries were up 7% and 30.2%.
In the 108th, which covers parts of Ocasio-Cortez's constituency as well as the affluent Long Island City neighborhood, which is outside of her congressional district, robberies climbed by 71% and 84.4% over the past two years. Robberies were up more than 75% in the neighboring 109th Precinct, near the Mets' Citi Field.
"As Willie Sutton said, he robbed banks because 'that's where the money is,'" Mauro told Fox News Digital. "Recidivist robbery, burglary and larceny felons do what they do where they do it because that's where the money is. If you look at AOC's district - which encompasses comparatively safe commands - a major reason you see crime rising there is because for many perps that's where the money is."
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These types of crimes can't be countered with mental health services and social workers as "defund" supporters have suggested, according to Joseph Giacalone, an adjunct professor at New York City's John Jay College of Criminal Justice and the former commanding officer of the NYPD's Bronx Cold Case Squad.
"The social workers are only designed to deal with emotionally disturbed people, bring in the homeless," he said. "They're not there to help fight crime."
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Well before the "defund" movement took off in 2020, experts said well-funded police departments performed better on tackling crime, maintaining community relations and reducing use of force compared to their cash-starved counterparts.
"While there are always better ways to allocate police resources, cutting budgets means fewer cops and detectives, less money for equipment and computer applications, less money for civilian crime analysts, less ability to promote deserving officers, more reliance on overtime, etc.," Mauro said. "It is downward pressure on the efficacy of any department. How anyone could believe massively defunding police departments would somehow lower crime beggars belief."
And it's not just defunding that's hurting the NYPD's ability to tackle crime, according to the experts. It's a combination of low morale, officers retiring early or taking jobs in smaller departments, and bail reforms that put repeat offenders back on the streets, sometimes within hours of their arrests.
"Somebody needs to show me where the word reform is synonymous with good," Giacalone said. "Murders are down, but the other six [major] crimes are absolutely awful. We've lost about 20 years' worth of gains in New York City."
But Ocasio-Cortez in September co-signed a letter calling on New York Gov. Kathy Hochul and then-New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio to shut down the city's Rikers Island jail and release everyone inside.
"The people of New York City have to wake up and vote these people out," said Giacalone, who added that he typically avoids discussing politics. "I don't care how much you like them - they've done nothing for you but create misery."
While Ocasio-Cortez has kept mum about the "defund" movement on Twitter since December 2020, her endorsement of a pro-"defund" New York State Assembly candidate earlier this year prompted the incumbent Assemblywoman Inez Dickens, D-Harlem, to state flatly, "My community opposes defunding the police," the New York Post reported in May.
She won her primary, fending off the Ocasio-Cortez-backed progressive challenger.
The latest Spectrum News NY1/Siena College New York City Poll found in June that only 5% of New Yorkers thought the city was doing an excellent job fighting crime, compared to 45% who said they thought the city was doing a poor job.
Just 9% of the respondents said they thought the city was doing an excellent job "transforming the NYPD into a force that serves and protects all New Yorkers," compared to 33% who viewed the progress poorly.
The same poll found that 70% of New Yorkers felt less safe than they did at the start of 2020, and a combined 76% were very or somewhat concerned that they could become a victim of a crime.
Election statistics compiled by FiveThirtyEight after the Democratic mayoral primary last year show Eric Adams, a former NYPD captain and the most prominent pro-police candidate at the time, surged to victory with the support of some of the city's most crime-stricken communities in the South Bronx and Brooklyn North.
"I think Adams really cares - but he's fighting half the city council who's against him every step of the way. He's got senators and congressmen against him, and he's got the Albany crowd totally against him." said Giacalone, who wrote about the mayor's struggles last year. "None of these people live in the areas that are affected most by the crime."
Ocasio-Cortez's office did not respond to requests for comment.