By Patrick J. Brosnan

Bullets are flying over Broadway and many other New York streets as a gathering storm of pre- Giuliani violence swirls over the city.

Seventy-seven people shot in a week, 21 killed. Nine Police Officers shot in six months, one stabbed in the eye. A 3-year- old boy shot in a playground in Brooklyn.

We’re slipping inexorably back to the bad old days of 2,000 New Yorkers a year being slaughtered while Mayor David Dinkins perfected his tennis game in Queens.

The recent and terrifying increase in shootings and murders confirms two facts: Criminals read the newspapers, and they’re not as stupid as our politicians had thought.

A third, equally irrefutable fact is that felony prison sentences are finite — less than three years on average, according to Department of Corrections statistics.

The city has the criminal equivalent of a perfect storm brewing: Recently released criminals who’ve not only read the apocalyptic rhetoric of judges and advocates about the NYPD’s stop-and- frisk policies, but also what it means for proactive policing.

The legal and political assault will undoubtedly compel New York’s Finest to minimize their daily stop-and- frisks. The prospect of a federal class-action lawsuit, and the suppression in court of evidence (weapons that were legally seized), would dampen the enthusiasm of the most proactive police officer.

The bad guys know this— and realize that, by default, they’ll have virtual carte blanche to carry illegal weapons. Illegal weapons on the city’s streets will increase exponentially. Guns that had been hidden behind garbage compacters or stuffed in a mailbox will now be in waistbands — readily available to mete out street justice, correct a perceived slight or frighten a rival drug dealer.

The risk/reward calculus for bad guys has shifted, and they’ll capitalize on it as surely as the sun sets in the west.

The fiery rhetoric of the city’s liberal elite and ideologically-driven judges has muddied what is essentially a very clear rule of law. The stop-and- frisk exception to the Fourth Amendment was reviewed and clarified by the US Supreme Court in 1968 in Terry v. Ohio.

The facts: If a law-enforcement officer reasonably suspects that an individual possesses a weapon, he or she may search that individual’s outer garments. If an object’s contour or mass make its identity readily apparent — and I assure you, a gun feels like a gun even when swathed in clothing — then its seizure is justified.

I am well-suited to make this observation, having personally arrested over 1,000 criminals and seized over 300 loaded pistols in 13 years in the South Bronx.

The stop-and- frisk policy is a vital police tool and a lynchpin of the NYPD’s highly effective, proactive policing. Forged in the lawless ’80s and early ’90s, the policy has served the city well. Reported crime has dropped to historic lows and decency and civility have been restored to the streets of this great city.

Mayor Rudy Giuliani and his team broke the back of rampant crime in the early ’90s. Mayor Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Ray Kelly have continued the fight, developing new and innovative strategies that have kept the city’s residents (and its 50 million tourists a year) safe. The recent demagoguery on stop-and- frisk policy will not only weaken the effectiveness of the greatest police department in the world, but also empower criminals.

Reveling in the support of agenda-driven jurists, they’ll engage in increasingly violent acts simply because they can — because they know that the police and their authority have been diminished. This sense of empowerment, of legal invincibility, will drive crime to new and terrifying heights. I hope I’m wrong, but I fear I’m not.

Patrick J. Brosnan, a former NYPD Robbery/Gun Squad detective named New York State Police Officer of the Year in 1990 for his efforts in taking guns off the streets, is now CEO of Brosnan Risk Consultants and a FoxNews crime analyst.

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