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No Sense of Urgency

June 4, 2018 

Ever since NYC’s annual murder rate fell below 1,000 in the days of Rudy Giuliani and Bill Bratton 1, the NYPD has talked about “locking in” the numbers. Yet, with slight anomalous variations, the number of murders has dropped over the past 25 years, ending 2017 under 300. That’s the lowest number since 1959.

Click here to read what the police brass say about NYPD ConfidentialThat may be about to change.

Buried in the department’s COMPSTAT report for the week ending May 20 are some disquieting numbers for the previous 28 days — from April 23 through May 20. In those 28 days, the numbers show a rise in homicides from 20 in 2017 to 35 in 2018 — a 75 percent increase.  

The numbers also show that shooting incidents for that period rose from 53 a year ago to 61 this year — a rise of 15 percent.

The COMPSTAT figures do not reveal whether the increase in homicides and shootings is citywide or confined to certain patrol boroughs. Or whether the homicides happened indoors or were the result of street violence. Regardless, says a former NYPD deputy commissioner, referring to the 75 percent murder increase, “That’s a pretty big number.” 

Click here to read the New York Times profile of Leonard LevittStatisticians will tell you that the weekly COMPSTAT figures are relatively meaningless. And it may be that the 75 percent increase from 20 to 35 in those 28 days, from April 23 through May 20, may be a mere statistical blip. 

On the other hand, no sensible person can ignore what may presage an alarming trend.

[As of May 20 this year, homicides were up from 102 in 2017 to 106 in 2018, an increase of 3.98 percent.]

The department has not publicly acknowledged the 28-day figure. At least outwardly, no one is showing signs of urgency. Top NYPD officials spent most of last week attending a police conference in Nashville.

Asked about the figures, NYPD spokesman J. Peter Donald did not address the issue. Instead, he said: “Last year, New York City recorded the fewest number of murders in modern history and produced the lowest per capita homicide rate of any major city in the nation. This year, the NYPD is keeping crime at deep lows that would have been unfathomable a generation ago. The NYPD will continue fighting crime and violence wherever we find it. And we will continue to work at building trust and understanding with the public through neighborhood policing, which will make our city even safer."

However, a former chief says the top brass are well aware of the situation. “They’re all talking about it, but secretly.”
Since appointing Jim O’Neill commissioner in the fall of 2016, Mayor Bill de Blasio has each month held a news conference with the top brass, heralding the NYPD’s ability in lowering the city’s crime rate. At the same time, the mayor has touted his and O’Neill's signature policy of neighborhood policing to improve police-community relations. The mayor has suggested — with no evidence to support it — that neighborhood policing is in part responsible for the city’s crime declines.

Click here to read the Washington Post article on NYPD ConfidentialShould murders continue to rise, the department may have to re-examine neighborhood policing as well as other ballyhooed de Blasio-era policies, such as summonses — not arrests — for turnstile jumping and smoking marijuana.

The former deputy commissioner said he had heard that some Brooklyn cops were recently reprimanded by borough commanders for issuing weekend marijuana summonses. “What the f… don’t you guys understand?” he said the cops were told. “They [the top brass] don’t want any.”

But, warns the former deputy commissioner, “When cops step back and disengage or are seen as feckless, this empowers criminals.”

He adds: “Certain signs are beginning to appear. All of them are signs of disorder. Newspaper stories of a tourist attacked after coming out of the theater on Broadway. People afraid in the subways. Petit larcenies skyrocketing in stores in transitional neighborhoods. They may seem like isolated incidents but they speak to a larger truth."

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