The chairman, though, was quite explicit in his expression of sympathy for the victims of violent crimes brought to testify in front of the committee, among them Madeline Brame, whose son was murdered in Upper Manhattan. Certain turns of phrase were repeated so often in the hearings that they might have lent themselves to a drinking game had most of this not transpired before lunchtime. Republicans referred to the “Sorosization’’ of the criminal justice system over and over, not intending it as a compliment, and Dan Goldman, elected to the House last year to serve downtown Manhattan and Brownstone Brooklyn, pointed to the antisemitic overtones.
For roughly four hours, the hearing played out as a fusillade of statistics, impressions and misimpressions, as Republicans argued that New York was a hellscape of unchecked violence and chaos — viral videos of which were shown on local news programs around the country to to prove it. Democrats on the committee countered that things were much worse in so many other places, especially in the cities and states from which their political adversaries had come. One Republican out-of-towner proved that he had already internalized the reflexes of a certain kind of New Yorker, whether he could appreciate it or not, when he mentioned the cabdriver he had interrogated, after landing, about how much he worried about crime.
The New York Police Department, like the police departments of many other cities around the country, offers the public a weekly account of crime both citywide and by precinct, which might have obviated the need for a lot of the bickering. But then where would the drama have come from? The data tells us that citywide murder is down 6.6 percent so far this year, and shootings are down 23 percent, compared to last year.
Still, is the vibe of the city more lawless than it has ever been? Robert F. Holden, a Democrat and a City Council member representing a district in Queens — which, it ought to be noted, is not in Manhattan — and the only elected official of local government asked to testify, said that yes, it did feel more lawless. His wife, who is Asian American, was afraid to take the subway, fearful of hate crime. She is justified in this worry. Although hate crimes have fallen 40 percent citywide compared with the same period last year, in Queens, where Mr. Bragg has no jurisdiction, they have gone up.
Nicole Malliotakis, the Republican congresswoman from Staten Island, where major crimes have increased this year, showed up about two and a half hours into the hearing to observe and offer herself to reporters. In the overflow room outside the hearing, she talked about the dangers delivered to the world by reform-minded prosecutors, claiming that one in every 67 New Yorkers was a crime victim. When asked whether this hearing would have been conducted had there been no Trump indictment, Ms. Malliotakis insisted it would have, adding that, “This is an issue I have been pushing.”