Building Community While Discarding Stop-and-Frisk

New York City Crushes Crime to Historic Lows

David Stone
NYPD Commissioner James P. O'Neill
NYPD Commissioner James P. O'Neill
Photo credit: Jimgerbig /Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License.

Mayor Bill de Blasio summed it up: "A big, tough city proved – we proved that you could turn crime around and that one of the crucial elements of turning crime around was getting away from divisive use of Stop-and-Frisk and other things that drove a wedge between police and community."

History is being made in Gotham.

The mayor and senior police officials reported historic results for 2016 in a press conference at the Brooklyn Museum.

Nearby, a photo exhibit highlighting changes in New York City, starting 25 years ago at the dawn of the era of data driven community policing. Policies initiated by Commissioner Bill Bratton cleaned up crime across the board in our city, achieving results no one could have predicted at the onset.

De Blasio and current Commissioner James O'Neill made clear that they haven't hit the low water mark yet. They are honing tools to drive it even lower.

"We’ve zeroed in on a relatively small population of people who commit most of the violent crimes in the City," O'Neill said. "We’re picking them off one by one, in many cases, dozens by dozens. And we’re working with our five district attorneys and the U.S. Attorney, both in the East and Southern District, to make sure that this work pays off."

He continued, "We’ve added another facet through our neighborhood policing model. After each of these takedowns, we go back into the affected communities, neighborhoods, and housing developments that were terrorized by drug dealers and people shooting guns. We’ve held community meetings there with the people who live and work there, so they can ask questions about what our teams were doing there that morning, about exactly who we arrested and why. We’re overwhelmingly being told, ‘you got the right people.’ We’re also being told, 'Thank you.' That is what this is all about. That’s why we took these jobs."

Added de Blasio, "This is a beginning. What Commissioner O’Neill has set in place with neighborhood policing is still in its infancy. We expect great things."

What makes O'Neill and de Blasio so confident about future reductions is the newest wrinkle in enforcement: precision policing.

"The NYPD is perfecting a strategy of precision policing and in combination with neighborhood policing – crimes are being stopped before they happen because the focus is on the right people in the right places," O'Neill said. "And the information is there coming from so many neighborhood residents who are working in deeper partnership with the NYPD. And that combination of the right strategy, of the right targeting, and the right information has proven to be essential."

Results: The Nitty Gritty

"Broad categories of crime are down this year – murders, rape, robbery, grand larceny, auto grand larceny, burglaries," reported NYPD Deputy Commissioner of Operation Dermot Shea.

The headline number is for shooting incidents, which for the first time in the 25 years since statistics have reliably been recorded crept below 1,000, closing out the year a 998. For comparison, that number was 5,000 in 1991, the decline nothing short of amazing.

Overall, added Shea, "Index crime in New York City for 2016, we recorded approximately 101,600 crimes. That’s down four percent. It shattered the record sent it 2010 of 105-thousand-and-change index crimes."

The numbers continued to roll. 

"For 2016, there were 335 murders reported, compared with 352 in 2015. This is a reduction of 17 crimes, or -4.8%.  There were 1,436 rapes reported in 2016, compared with 1450 in 2015. This is a reduction of 14 crimes, or -1%.   There were 15,489 robberies reported in 2016, compared with 16, 971 in 2015. This is a reduction of 1,482 crimes, or -8.7%. There were 20, 807 felonious assaults reported in 2016, compared with 20,375 in 2015. This is an increase of 432 crimes, or +2.1%. There were 12,969 burglaries reported in 2016, compared with 15,183 in 2015. This is a reduction of 2214 crimes, or -14.6%. There were 44,236 grand larcenies reported in 2016, compared with 44,263 in 2015. This is a reduction of 27 crimes, -0.1%," according to the Mayor's Press Office.

“2016 was the safest year ever in the history of New York City," O'Neill commented when the numbers were first released.

Numbers don't lie was a point de Blasio stressed. Claims made during political campaigns can't be held in the same regard as actual data. Perceptions matter, and de Blasio asked the media to do their part to tell it like it really is.

“2016 marks a record year in crime reduction, made possible by the greatest police department in the world and transformative crime-fighting strategies that have built trust between police and communities and enabled New Yorkers to take an active role in ensuring the safety of their neighborhoods,” he said.

“Three years ago, countless onlookers scoffed at the notion that New York City could reduce crime from already record lows. Yet we’ve done it."

Now that the seemingly impossible has been accomplished, the idea of what's really possible begins to grow.

Stay tuned.

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