Control the criminals responsible for this plague

Funeral service for NYPD Officer Wilbert Mora

“The system continues to fail us. We are not safe anymore. Not even the members of the service. I know you were tired of these laws — especially the ones from the new DA. I hope he’s watching you speak through me right now.”

These are the words of slain NYPD Officer Rivera’s widow, Dominique Luzuriaga. Officer Rivera was laid to rest last week. His partner, Officer Mora will be buried on Wednesday. 


As a native New Yorker and a doctor on the front lines of COVID for the past two years, having taken care of over 21,000 COVID patients, I can tell you firsthand, the pandemic is not just COVID but there is a second plague.

It is crime.

The proof is in the data: 80 percent of COVID cases in NYC are down. Today, crime rates are increasing: over 100,000 crime incidents were reported in NYC in 2021 — felony assaults, robbery, murder, and rape. Pharmacies and neighborhood stores are closing as brazen thieves continue
to steal knowing there will be no repercussions. 

We have shootings in the Emergency Room lobby of a Bronx hospital, two young NYPD officers shot in the head and killed, innocent commuters pushed to their death on the underground subway. We now see more shootings with stolen guns in the hands of the mentally ill — the most dangerous threat to all of us.

NEW YORK, NY – JANUARY 28: Jeffrey Rivera, the brother of New York City Police Officer Jason Rivera’s, touches his casket after eulogizing him during his funeral mass at St. Patricks Cathedral on January 28, 2022 in New York, NY. Rivera and his partner, Officer Wilbert Mora, were fatally wounded when a gunman ambushed them in an apartment as they responded to a family dispute last week. 
(Photo by Mary Altaffer-Pool/Getty Images)

I am fearful to walk down the street even in daytime. I have been chased in broad daylight, spit upon, and attacked and I have had patients randomly stabbed, sliced and shot without provocation.

Michelle Go was fatally shoved onto the subway tracks on January 15 by Simon Martial, a 61-year-old homeless ex-convict who was ordered to undergo a psych evaluation and whose sister had asked a hospital not to release him because of his history of violent behavior.

Procession for fallen Officer Jason Rivera

Crime is killing our community faster than we can save it.  Law Enforcement deaths rose 55% in 2021 vs 2020. The number one killer of police officers was COVID but firearms accounted for a large
proportion of deaths along with traffic related deaths.  Humanity and civility has crumbled. Crime is out of control and desperate times call for desperate measures.  

We cannot succumb to the rhetoric of “defund the police.” Instead we must support those who protect us, those officers who wake up every morning risking their lives on a daily basis for us, to keep us safe We must back the blue, for if we do not, who will protect us when we need it. Who will protect your child or mom?

We cannot accept a slap on the wrist for armed burglary, it may be a burglary now, but next time a life may be lost. 

We are incentivizing crime and ushering in violence when we don’t hold criminals accountable for their actions. A murderer should never roam the streets. 

But it’s not the gun that kills, it’s the criminal pulling that trigger, perhaps consumed by an undiagnosed or under-treated mental illness like schizophrenia or depression or substance induced psychosis- severe diseases that need attention. Studies show that people suffering from mental illness are 11 times more likely than the general population to commit violent crimes. 

How many more police officers must die, how many more stabbings and subway kills need to occur, how many more lives must be lost?  Until we make changes now — immediately — death and destruction will continue in our cities. Is this the life we want for our children and future generations?

It appears violent offenders are targeting our men and women in blue. LaShawn McNeil, the 47-year- old who used a stolen AR-15 to shoot Officer Rivera and his partner Officer Mora, had a criminal record stretching back to 1998, was on active probation for drug charges and his social media history reveals anti-government and anti-police posts going back to 2010.

New York City Mayor Eric Adams speaks addresses the press about the scene where NYPD officers were shot while responding to a domestic violence call in the Harlem neighborhood of New York City, U.S., January 21, 2022.  REUTERS/Dieu-Nalio Chery

As we needed rapid COVID tests right away to tackle omicron, we didn’t get the help we needed until a month later, it was too late. For this second pandemic, let’s not wait until more lives are lost. There is a dire need to enact strict repercussions to deter crime. A fentanyl dealer who sold the drugs that left a teenager dead of an overdose are to be held accountable — automatic prison. Period.  And, as for mental illness, as free as the air that we breathe, so should be mental health support and services with easy access and availability.

I have hope in our new Mayor Eric Adams, a former police officer. He knows and understands the dire need for immediate intervention to clean the streets and deter criminals.

Let’s not play defense with crime. The health of all New Yorkers and our nation depends on thoughtful, integrated policies like enhanced mental health and substance services, transitional housing for the homeless, and smart gun legislation that will keep us safe.

Our city needs a lasting cure beyond something palliative, and it will require time and funding to do it correctly.

As a doctor, here are five prescription to survive the crime infested streets of my home city: 

1. Mental Illness support for all, in schools, work, hospitals and health departments.
2. Tackle homelessness and substance abuse.
3. Focus on education for our children otherwise the vicious cycle will continue. When a child is born into drugs and stray bullets and neglect we will continue to see societal injury and disparity.
4. Accept the fact some criminals are evil and need to be imprisoned to protect society. 
5. Prioritize public safety, law and order.

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