Soaring gun violence has America on edge amid pleas for more policing

Gun violence is soaring across the US, nowhere more so than in New York, reports ITV News Correspondent Robert Moore

America is in the grip of a menacing and startling surge in the most violent crimes - murders, carjackings and shootings. It’s impacting communities of all sizes across the country, leaving people fearful and frightened.

But it’s disproportionately devastating for poor, minority, inner city America.

The White House has tried to ignore the ugly reality for much of the last year. President Joe Biden is caught between his progressive wing - that sees aggressive policing as the problem, not the solution - and moderates who say the crime wave must be urgently addressed by proactive law enforcement.

The President has been forced to deal with the issue of soaring gun violence head-on. On Thursday he was in New York City and met the new mayor after the shooting of two young police officers.

They were killed after attending a domestic dispute, and their deaths have shocked the city to its core.

Wilbert Mora, left, and Jason Rivera were shot dead while answering a call out in Harlem Credit: AP

Thousands attended their funerals, and many New Yorkers say the crisis is now a city-wide emergency.

In 2020, homicides across the US rose nearly 30%. 21,570 Americans were murdered that year. Then in 2021 the murder rate increased still further - to the highest levels for several decades.

The reasons are complex, but many believe it's a combination of Covid putting pressure on society, surging gun sales, and police opting to be less assertive in the aftermath of the protests for racial justice.

Ella Thomas, who lost her son to gun violence, says she hears gunshots "every night" and has to duck for cover on the ground

To gauge the problem, I spent the day in New York City's Harlem district. I spoke to activists who believe that the police must return to the streets in larger numbers to end the surging violence that has made the neighbourhood terrifying to live in.

Their pleas have real power and urgency, for these are African American mothers who have all lost sons to gun violence. They work for a grassroots community organisation called "Harlem Mothers SAVE (Stop Another Violent End)."

"Friends killing each other, family killing each other - I've never seen anything like it," says Jackie Rowe Adams, whose second son was shot dead by a 13-year-old

What is striking is that these grieving mothers are withering of the calls from within the Black Lives Matter movement to "de-fund" the police.

"When we de-fund these police, whose community is going to suffer? Certainly won't be the white communities," says Denise Paul, who describes what is happening in New York as a "war"

Jackie, Ella and Denise want more and better-funded police on the streets; they want more assertive law enforcement; they want the police to track down the killers in their midst and lock them away.

They are convinced - through heart-breaking personal experience - that gun violence is now such an out-of-control epidemic that the police are the last, best hope for their community.