I began my latest book, “The Profession,” with a touching quote from the late, great cop and former NYPD Deputy Commissioner John Timoney: “Those who don’t study history are doomed to repeat it. Those who study the police know that we don’t study history.”
John’s words are true today, but perhaps with a significant change. It is the politicians who are not studying history – and the public that is doomed because of it.
In many ways, the crime and disorder New York City is facing is reminiscent of the city we turned to in the 1990s. It was nearly three decades ago that we saw crime and disorder in the streets, sensational and sad news headlines and the 1993 mayoral candidate campaigning on the three main issues every New Yorker was most concerned about: crime, schools and the economy. . Know known?
There are also familiar areas of the Big Apple that are more vulnerable to violent crime. Twenty-nine years ago, in the 75th precinct, which covers East New York, Brooklyn, there was a murder every 63 hours. The 75th Precinct was labeled “Killing Fields” or “Killing Grounds” on the cover of the New York Post.
But we turned things around. Murder, shootings, robbery, assault and other seven major crime categories decreased dramatically in the 1990-2000s. That is, until lawmakers launched an unfortunate criminal-justice-reform effort in 2019 that has contributed to the largest overall crime increase in a generation.
By the numbers: In 1990, there were 2,246 murders in five cities, a historic high. Yet by the end of 1996, fewer than 1,000 murders were recorded, a drop of about 55%.
Similarly in 1990, there were about 6,000 shooting victims, a number that had halved by 1996. At the end of 2018, the total number of murders in the city was less than 300 for the second year in a row, and the total number of major crimes was the lowest recorded at 95,883.
75th Precinct is indeed a prime example of how the Great Police in the NYPD, working with supportive political leadership and aggressive district attorneys, would become one of the most effective and comprehensive anti-crime initiatives ever.
In 1994, at the NYPD, we pioneered a crime-reduction program led by some of the best minds in policing like Jack Maple, Louis Anemone and John Timoney – Compstat was born.
Paired with a sustained crackdown on crime of quality of life supported by the theories of the late George Kelling, co-author of “Broken Windows”, crime, disorder, and fear began to fall dramatically in eastern New York and across the city.
In 2014, I had the privilege of returning to the NYPD for the second time as Police Commissioner and even more fortunately I was able to assemble a team of great crime fighters, some of whom were with us 20 years earlier. We went back to the fundamentals that worked in the 90s, while being well aware that crime has declined year after year and understand very well why it declined every year for 20 years.
We also continued to focus on the quality of life crime, the broken windows that still existed. We have added more police to the force to implement the Neighborhood Policing Program across the city to bring in Neighborhood Coordination Officers for each community. We also launched precision policing to target the most dangerous criminals responsible for the bulk of the violence and partnered with district attorneys to jail them. This partnership is at least fragmented today and with many district attorneys in a worst-case scenario.
What the NYPD held was permanent. In 2018, New Yorkers, especially the often-underside residents of East New York, celebrated a 129-day period with a single murder at the 75th Precinct.
I think we can blame the police for taking 55 guns off the streets and charging 74 people for those crimes in that neighborhood alone during those 129 days.
Crime in the NYPD was down to levels never seen before, complaints against officers dwindled, and the population in Rikers continued to decline as crime and criminal behavior were brought under control.
For more than 25 years, there has been a steady decline in crime in the city. until the state legislature and city council passed a series of criminal-justice-reform laws that have proved disastrous. To make matters worse, most of the city’s district attorneys continue to corner criminals and isolate victims of crime.
As Mayor Adams continues to press right on Albany’s politicians to make necessary reforms, they are missing out on action, and public safety goes down the drain.
It’s no secret on the street that lawless and violent behavior has no consequences. Last year, more than 90% of 60,000 felony arrests resulted in no jail time or jail time or even probation. Only 3% of arrests ended in prison sentences. Although NYPD figures show that arrests in the 75th range have risen nearly 30% this year as it leads to shootings in the city, New Yorkers must ask: How many of those criminals are back on the streets to take their neighborhoods hostage. has been abandoned?
It’s hard to be optimistic in the midst of current crises, but I’ve always been one. We’ve rotated it once before. There is a roadmap from the past to fix the present crises. And while the NYPD continues to make arrest after arrest—our elected officials and district attorneys better hit the history books and find common ground with the police and the public or perhaps many of them in future elections, let’s hope. Do it, history will happen.
Former NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton is the author of “The Profession: A Memoir of Community, Race, and the Arc of Policing in America.”