NYC To Expand Number Of Non-NYPD 'Social Distancing Ambassadors' To 2,300 Following Viral Videos Of Arrests
NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- Following a series of troubling viral videos that sparked a debate about NYPD enforcement of social distancing, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Sunday an increase in the number of non-NYPD "social distancing ambassadors."
"The last thing we want to see is enforcement if there's any other way to get the job done," de Blasio said. "Enforcement has always been the last resort."
The city currently has 1,000 non-NYPD personnel whose job it is to distribute face masks, and educate and reiterate the importance of social distancing throughout the city. That number will grow to 2,300 by next weekend, the mayor said.
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"Generally speaking, New Yorkers have just done the right thing. Overwhelmingly, New Yorkers have done the right thing. That doesn't mean in a city of 8.6 million people you don't need reminders, you don't need education, you don't need some enforcement. I believe you do need all those things," de Blasio said. "What we don't need is anything that goes beyond the proper enforcement of these rules into something else."
At Domino Park in Brooklyn, NYPD officers handed out face masks to people who showed up without them.
Nora Harrison to CBS2's Cory James she was pleased to see police trying to reduce the spread of COVID-19.
"I do think it's great they are handing them out and trying to assist as much as possible," Harrison said.
Over in Manhattan at Hudson River Park, it was the same story. Officers were monitoring near Pier 45 and 46 after video showed too many people too close together last week.
Lorissa Boz said she noticed a change.
"Last week, there were a ton of crowds, people congregating all across the lot," Boz said. "This week, it's a lot different. There are people reasonably spaced out and police officers who are making sure people do that."
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De Blasio said a video showing an arrest on the Lower East Side was a "very troubling" example of "the wrong approach to policing."
"That was very alienating to so many people in this city," de Blasio said. "There have been some others that have raised concern. And I think they pull at people in a very real and painful way and remind us of things that were too common for too long and that were not acceptable."
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"Again, want to keep reminding people the number of summonses and arrests is extraordinarily low, given that this is a crisis that affects all 8.6 million New Yorkers," he added.
The mayor said the city will releases statistics about social distancing summonses and arrests going forward.
Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams said he is satisfied with the city's new response, but added he believes officers had been only targeting areas where there are minorities.
"They were only targeting black and brown people. It was stop and frisk. That's not okay," Adams said.
Adams rode around a neighborhood in the back of this trailer Sunday, and spoke through a megaphone. He wanted to share a message to the community that he hopes will help protect them during the crisis.
"Please wear a face masks. Please wash your hands," he said.
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