Deep blue New York City is certainly no bastion of civil liberties. From stop and frisk, to one of the highest tax rates in the country, to draconian lockdown measures that shut down people’s livelihoods—the city has often, almost gleefully, trampled on the rights of its residents.
But its latest policy might really take the cake. Recently, former cop and current mayor, Eric Adams, directed police and other first responders to round up those they deemed as “too mentally ill to care for themselves” and take them to local hospitals for forced bookings.
According to the New York Times, “Mr. Adams, who has made clearing homeless encampments a priority since taking office in January, said the effort would require involuntarily hospitalizing people who were a danger to themselves, even if they posed no risk of harm to others, arguing the city had a ‘moral obligation’ to help them.”
This new policy comes on the heels of a skyrocketing homelessness epidemic in the city, as well as an increase in crime. The number of people sleeping in shelters in the city each night is 26% higher than it was a decade ago, and the number of homeless single adults is a whopping 99% higher over the same time period. And in October the city said it experienced a 5.9% increase in crime compared to a year ago, which was largely driven by a 19.3% increase in grand larceny auto crimes and an 8.9% increase in burglaries.
It’s a false but common assumption that mentally ill people and homeless people are more violent and commit more crimes than the general population. In reality, those who are mentally ill are about 10 times more likely to be a victim of a crime, rather than a perpetrator and the data around homeless camps and their ties to property crimes is messy, nuanced, and not indicative of a strong causation between the two.
Adams has hardly shown himself to be a deep or thoughtful politician, rather seeming to rely on reflexive instincts informed by his time as a cop. So, this move is not really all that surprising.
“The common misunderstanding persists that we cannot provide involuntary assistance unless the person is violent,” Adams said in an address. “Going forward, we will make every effort to assist those who are suffering from mental illness.”
People who aim to violate the rights of others often work to paint themselves as white knights swooping in to save people from themselves. But do not be fooled. This is a draconian policy that will have severe repercussions. First and foremost, the judgment of police or first responders should not be the criteria by which we strip people of their basic rights and lock them up in hospitals.
Keep in mind, this is the same police department that choked Eric Garner to death for selling a few loose cigarettes on the street. And moreover, police across the country frequently harm those they’re paid to protect, bully people with their power, steal from them at rates higher than actual robbers, and frequently arrest the wrong person for a crime. And Adams wants to give these people carte blanche power to strip people of their basic rights without a trial? What could possibly go wrong…
Secondarily, even if a person does have an actual mental illness, and even if they are a threat to themselves, we do not have the right to lock them up against their will. Living in a free society means we have to be able to tolerate the behavior of people we dislike—even if it’s bad for them. A lot of people do things that harm themselves, like stuffing themselves with processed foods, drinking themselves silly, or moving to New York City. Making bad decisions that can harm you is not a case for government intervention.
The line in the sand, and the basis for all laws (and the consequential removal of rights when they are broken), must be when a person harms someone else, their property, or their rights. Otherwise, people must be free to make bad decisions.
Involuntary hospitalizations can result in a person losing their job, having their children taken away, losing their home or car if they fall behind on payments, and tremendous hospital bills many cannot afford. It is no small threat.
The government is the OG Karen and it must be stopped.
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