Over the past 20 years, New York City residents have experienced a most welcome decrease in serious crime. To its credit, the New York City Police Department has been re-tooled to fight serious crime and the disorder from which it can spring.
Naturally, some believe that this enhanced level of safety is a given, that the natural order of events in the years to come will surely be a prosperous city with low rates of crime and orderly life in our neighborhoods. Former City Councilman Sal Albanese, a Democratic candidate for Mayor, believes otherwise: “Too many neighborhoods―from East Harlem to East New York―still cite local crime as one of their top concerns. History has shown us again and again that we simply can’t afford to take public safety for granted.”
Albanese was a member of the City Council’s Public Safety Committee for 15 years and considered an expert on policing.
A Look at the Homicide Rate
The implosion of and sustained reduction in violent crime achieved in New York is not a national phenomenon. In fact, two great American cities, Philadelphia and Chicago, ended 2012 with staggering levels of murder. More than 500 people were killed in Chicago―a rate of 18.5 per 100,000 people. More than 320 were killed in Philadelphia―a rate of 21 per 100,000 people. New York’s homicide total was 418―a rate of 5.02 and the lowest since records have been kept. Closer to home, Camden, NJ, was also rocked by murders last year. Camden County Prosecutor Warren Faulk summed up what he sees as the source of the problem: “There used to be the fear of getting caught with the gun, so in a drug set there would be what they call a community weapon. Now, they are not averse to carrying them in their waistbands. That, in my view, is because we just simply don’t have the police on the streets."
Because of budget cuts, the NYPD’s uniformed force is the smallest it has been in 20 years. The result? Local precincts are stretched thin, leaving only a handful of officers to patrol on some tours. Some units are so busy answering calls, they have little time to devote to high-visibility initiatives and the quality-of-life issues that are so important to our neighborhoods. The detective bureau is also suffering from a shortage of investigators. If not addressed, this could potentially lead to investigators not being able to devote the necessary time to investigate major crimes.
The Albanese Public Safety Initiative
To hold the line on public safety and give the Commissioner the resources needed to tackle theft in our transit system and crime and disorder in every single neighborhood in our city, I propose hiring 3,800 sworn personnel to the force: 3,300 additional police officers and 500 additional detectives. That is an approximately 11% increase in the total number of police protecting our communities.
My plan would specifically apportion officers to precincts based on the volume and nature of calls answered in each precinct, ensuring new hires go where they are needed most. No precinct in any neighborhood, however, would receive fewer than 25 additional officers.
The Transit Bureau would receive 400 additional police officers to enhance its ability to do routine policing and prepare for emergency, terrorism, and non-terrorism-related challenges. And the 400,000 often-neglected residents of public housing would see an increase of 250 officers to patrol the buildings, grounds, and immediate vicinity of NYCHA facilities.
New Officers By Bureau
For Precincts: 2,650 additional officers
For the busiest (by radio run) 25 precincts: 50 officers per precinct (1250 officers total)
For the middle busiest 25 precincts: 35 officers per precinct (875 officers total)
For the least busy 26 precincts: 25 officers per precinct (525 officers total)
For the Housing Bureau: 250 additional officers
For the Transit Bureau: 400 additional officers
For the Detective Bureau: 500 additional detectives
Total New Hires: 3,800
I am fully committed to doing the tough work needed to keep our homicide and violent crime rates at a minimum and maintain our strong anti-terrorism efforts. But much more needs to be done to address quality-of-life issues that have left many New Yorkers feeling more vulnerable despite the overall decrease in crime.
My plan would give precinct commanders the resources they need to tackle and thwart both violent crimes and quality-of-life violations. It would also go a long way toward easing any community-police tension. Putting more officers into local precincts empowers them to establish a positive, proactive presence and build stronger relationships with community members and leaders.
In every community, people would no doubt feel reassured that local matters too often overlooked or given scarce attention could now be targeted. For senior citizens and disabled New Yorkers, renewed attention would be given to enforcing bus stop and other parking regulations. School perimeters would receive additional attention at the beginning and end of the school day, allowing the vast majority of kids who go to learn to do so untroubled by potential violence. And issues that often undermine our sense of safety and community confidence could finally be addressed: public intoxication and nightlife noise in places like the Lower East Side, car repairs and bicycle traffic blocking sidewalks in Sunset Park, graffiti and property tagging in Jackson Heights, theft and harassment on the transit system, and a general lack of security in public housing.
Bolstering public safety is not just an investment in security. Safer cities are more vibrant cities, economically and civically. As we reap the benefits of recent economic development projects and continued economic growth, we will generate more revenue to pay for our investment in these services. As Mayor, I would direct my police commissioner to streamline bureaucracy and redirect resources to patrol. I would also ask the City's Congressional delegation to deliver more federal money for public safety.
My plan will ensure that the City continues its successful anti-terrorism efforts, its reduction in violent crime including homicides, and would address the important quality-of-life concerns in our neighborhoods. New York City would continue to proudly call itself the safest big city in America.