There are at least three driving forces behind the upsurge in hate crimes, attacks on important institutions and overall disrespect for the law that we’ve been suffering the last couple of years. In one of them public policy can have virtually no influence, in another it can have a fair amount and in the third it can have a great deal of impact.

We’re talking here about everything from hate crimes committed against people to vandalism to routine quality-of-life offenses, because we believe they all have some things in common. They’re all on the rise, in part because public policy is not discouraging them, and they reveal what seems to be a growing degree of pathology among the population, preceding the pandemic but clearly exacerbated by it.

As Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, the Democratic nominee for mayor, said Monday on WNYC’s “The Brian Lehrer Show,” the city has “become a place where lawlessness is the norm. And that is unacceptable.”

The latest example in Queens is the heinous destruction of two statues, considered holy by the faithful, outside Our Lady of Mercy Catholic Church in Forest Hills. They had stood there since 1937. Some hate-filled woman knocked them over July 14, but that wasn’t enough. She returned at around 3:30 a.m. last Saturday, toppled them again, dragged them into the street and smashed them into pieces.

It’s unknown whether there is any link to the breaking in two of a holy statue at St. Adalbert Catholic Parish in Elmhurst in late May. One almost hopes so: The fewer people out there engaging in such hateful iconoclasm, the better.

It was at the start of June that someone spray-painted hate-filled messages against elderly war veterans, the police and the God that many believe in all over the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Elmhurst, with some repeated nearby.

Even worse of course are the hate crimes against individuals. Recent ones include assaults against an Asian woman in Long Island City, a gay Latino man in Jackson Heights and Muslim couples in Jamaica and South Richmond Hill.

To the degree that all this hatred against people and institutions is due to anger or mental issues among those responsible, there is only so much that can be done. Some people are violent and commit crimes without any signs of regret.

Some of what’s going on may be linked to the worldview now prevalent among many officials, academics, media figures and entertainers that western countries, and the United States in particular, must be held accountable for their past wrongs. If the intelligentsia keeps telling you the Catholic Church is a force for oppression, why not destroy its icons? If the same is true of the U.S. military, why not deface memorials to its members? Maybe the pendulum could swing back to the middle so we could get a more balanced, more accurate approach to history and current affairs. This is where public officials could have a fair amount of impact.

Where they have the most sway, however, is in legislation. What they could and should do is rewrite the laws that have allowed lawlessness to spread. Not only should the damaging no-bail laws of 2019 be reversed, New York should join those states that allow judges to take community safety into account when deciding whether to jail a defendant.

We can’t expect any of that, however. City and state lawmakers have shown they are fine with a certain level of chaos. Instead we have to hope that Adams, if he becomes mayor, can somehow reverse the lawlessness with the tools of his office, including proactive policing and letting people know through word and deed that the deal has changed.

The city cannot allow criminal pathologies to thrive the way they have been of late, not if we want to maintain our society, our traditions and our very safety.

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