Joe Lhota denies 'race-baiting,' defends stop-and-frisk
I’ll give you an example that the courts use: If somebody is walking down the street and they try to open up a car door and it doesn’t open. They go to the next car and try to open the door. They go to the next one…Cop should stop that person right on the spot. That’s suspicious activity. Why are they going to three separate cars to open it? They’ll talk, they’ll question and possibly, based on the questioning, they will get tossed or frisked. And that person, if they don’t have a firearm on them, if they come up with some cockamamie story about why they were doing it, they won’t be arrested. It goes back to the community understanding how cops are trained, what they can do and why.
On the topic of public safety, I have to ask about the recent ad. It has come under fire, with people calling it “race baiting” and “divisive.” Did you worry about it being perceived as either?
Neither. Neither, neither. It’s not race baiting because I worked real long and hard to make sure that the scenes did not include African-Americans. There’s only one and it was a businessman in a suit, and a leather jacket and a pair of shoes sitting on the subway with earphones in his ear. So, I purposely did that.
It’s unbelievable to me that people look at these pictures and assume that they’re racial when they’re not. And it bothers me that people see criminal activity and think it’s race baiting. Anybody who believes that what happened in the ’70s, ’80s, and ’90s in New York, only happened because of racial issues, the facts don’t bear that out. And that’s what concerns me; that people absolutely believe that crime back then only resided in one community.
I’ve been going back and forth because I believe Bill de Blasio’s policies or lack of policies will throw us back to a period of time. I was in front of the 67 Precinct this morning in Brooklyn where there’s been a 166-percent increase in shootings in the last month. Rape is up significantly. We’ve seen robberies increase 70 percent in one month.
Bill has not put forward one proposal, not one proposal that would talk about how he would deal with getting crime lower than it is now. I don’t like the status quo. I think the status quo is unacceptable. The crime levels are still too high and we’ve got to get them down. We’ve got to get guns off the street. We’ve got to make every street in New York safe.
Finally, who are the former New York mayors you admire most and what would you borrow from them?
Fiorello LaGuardia, going back to the ’30s and early ’40s, was an outgoing mayor. He spent an enormous amount of time communicating with the communities and did a very, very good job of it. He went so far as to go on the weekends on WNYC radio and read the cartoons on the Sunday papers to all the kids in the city of New York. He was known as The Little Flower but he was an unbelievable, outgoing personality.
I thought Ed Koch had a great mix of being funny and stern all at the same time. Rudy Giuliani had a focus that I’ve never seen in a mayor before or after. He came in because of crime-related issues and he really focused on crime, but he brought in other people like me to deal with financial issues, because that was not his forte. Those are mayors that I admire.
Follow Donovan X. Ramsey at @iDXR.