In much the same way that shoplifting has become “shopping” in progressive-run cities and gun control is rebranded as “responsible solutions,” one of the left’s approaches to public safety is funding ex-cons and felons to quell crime.
A recent alert highlighted a problem with non-traditional policing alternatives to public safety that employ “violence interrupters” or “community safety ambassadors.” Rather than helping to fight crime, the “peacekeepers” were, in some cases, actually contributing to it. Based on a random selection of news reports, violence interrupters have been “accused of illegally possessing guns while they were out on bond… for illegally possessing guns” (Chicago), “charged with unlawful use of a weapon, heroin possession, and possession of a controlled substance after police allegedly found a loaded pistol and bags of suspected crack cocaine and heroin” (Chicago), accused of destroying evidence linked to a murder (St. Louis, MO), and sentenced to 17 years in jail for a strangling (Louisville, KY). While the “premise of the whole ‘peacekeeper’ program may be that those hired for the role likely have a criminal past” (and thus, street cred), the alert advised that “the vetting process to ensure future ‘peacekeepers’ have truly abandoned their criminal ways is in need of being refined.”
It seems a “violence interrupter” for New York City has been interrupted in more than just his activism. Several news outlets have reported that Michael Rodriguez, 48, described as a “director of a Bronx anti-violence program listed as part of Mayor Eric Adams’ plan to curb shootings,” has been arrested, along with more than a dozen others, in a huge drug and gun bust.
The arrests follow a lengthy investigation (“Operation Hide in Plain Sight”) of a narcotics trafficking network by Orange County, NY law enforcement. “Officials say they found over 1.5 kilograms of cocaine, $165,509 in United States currency, scales, a money counter, an unlicensed Ruger .380 caliber pistol, an unlicensed Bond Arms .357 caliber handgun, a vacuum sealer, digital scales and jewelry estimated to have a value of approximately $50,000 in [Rodriguez’s] Westchester County home.” Charges against him reportedly include, besides the drug and conspiracy counts, felony charges for criminal possession of firearms.
Rodriguez’s organization, “Bronx Rises Against Gun Violence” (BRAG), works to “promote safer streets” and deploys violence interrupters as part of that mission. BRAG was one of the entities listed as a “community partner” in Mayor’s Adams’ “Blueprint to End Gun Violence” (2022), “a plan for action towards removing guns from New York City streets to protect communities and create a safe, prosperous city.” BRAG “partnered with students in anti-gun environment or A.G.E to speak against gun violence” in May, and was included as a partner in the NYC anti-gun “March for Our Lives,” for which the “the lion’s share of the support” and funding was provided by Michael Bloomberg’s Everytown gun-control conglomerate.
Of course, a criminal charge is only an allegation that a defendant has committed a violation of the criminal law and is not evidence of guilt; all defendants are presumed innocent until convicted in a court of law. Law enforcement officials commenting on the arrest, though, had plenty to say about an ostensible crusader against crime being an accused drug kingpin. “So the very guy that we have that’s supposed to be stopping gun violence in one jurisdiction in New York City is poisoning our jurisdiction up here,” noted Orange County District Attorney David Hoovler. In a similar vein, Bronx District Attorney Darcel Clark stated, “The allegations of drug trafficking and gun possession against Michael Rodriguez are shocking and disturbing, especially since he has attended anti-violence events and peace marches portraying himself as someone who cares about stopping the violence in our community. These charges are the exact opposite of the good work cure violence groups are doing.”
This latest episode is reminiscent of what happened with Bloomberg’s “starter” gun control group, Mayors Against Illegal Guns (MAIG). For years, its member local government officials were notorious for how often they were charged with or convicted of crimes, including firearm violations. By 2013, “roiled by constant reports of criminal behavior by members, MAIG was subsumed into Bloomberg’s new gun control entity, Everytown,” and stopped listing its individual members by name.
The New York Post’s editorial board may have stated the obvious in a piece titled, “NYC needs cops, not violence interrupters.” Pointing to the city’s appalling crime statistics – total felonies are up by 39% since 2021 and murders are now 40% above 2019 levels – it describes government outreach to such groups as an empty political gesture, one that is “less than useless for actual public safety” given that the “available statistical evidence to date suggests ‘interruption’ programs do very little, if anything, to drive down crime rates.” The “absurd-as-it-is-tragic arrest” of Rodriguez is simply “another sign of the lunacy of lefty policies.” As for gung-ho gun-control advocate Mayor Eric Adams (who is, incidentally, a “co-chair” of MAIG), the “Rodriguez absurdity should serve as a turning point on how much theater Adams will tolerate as he tries to make New York safe again.”