In the thirty months since Mayor Bill de Blasio took office and appointed William Bratton as police commissioner, New York City has experienced a significant shift in public safety. In 2014 and 2015, the New York City Police Department recorded two of the three lowest years—including the lowest—for murders since the 1950s. It has also recorded the lowest years for robbery, burglary, and auto theft since the 1960s, and the second and third lowest years for shootings since tracking began in 1994. At the same time, the NYPD has engaged in less enforcement, received fewer civilian complaints, recovered more guns, and conducted more large-scale take-downs of violent gangs. Police Commissioner Bratton calls this “precision policing.”
In the first six months of 2016, the NYPD has continued these trends. The Department is achieving further declines in robbery, burglary, and auto theft. All three categories have hit their lowest sixth-month’s totals since 1993 when the NYPD first began to maintain monthly records of crime. The NYPD is homing in on these pattern crimes with increasing precision, and precinct commanders, detectives, and officers are doing an extraordinary job of stopping patterns before repeat criminals can become one-man crime waves or criminal gangs can rob or burglarize multiple victims.
The decline in shootings is worthy of specific note. In a year when many American cities are experiencing surges in shootings and murders, shootings in New York have dipped yet again and are on track to hit an all-time low by the end of the year. During the past three years—2013, 2014, and 2015—there have been, on average, fewer than 1,140 shootings per year. This is a distinct departure from the previous ten years, when shootings averaged nearly 1,500 incidents, and an even greater departure from 1993 when there were 5,269 shootings. In the first six months of 2016, we are witnessing yet another drop which could take us below 1,100 for the first time.
As the NYPD cut back on stop, question, and frisks, from hundreds of thousands of stops to fewer than 8,000 in the first six months of this year, it has also been conducting highly focused investigations and takedowns of criminal gangs responsible for many of the shootings in the city. Since January, various operations have arrested nearly 500 violent gang members. Solid cases against many of these perpetrators allowed for their pre-indictment, and many face long prison sentences for their violent acts. In essence, the NYPD has stopped casting a wide net for possible shooters and concentrated intently on known shooters, and the shooting numbers are falling because of it.
This year has also seen the NYPD’s next steps in its focused attack on firearms violence. In January, the NYPD established the Gun Violence Suppression Division that, in addition to targeting gun trafficking and violent gangs, is working to enhance every gun possession arrest made in the city, ensuring that the evidence is in place for gun possession prosecutions to proceed. The city district attorneys have pledged a strong effort on gun cases, and a pilot program in Brooklyn is testing the effectiveness of a designated gun court.
In the longer run, the NYPD expects better gun and gang cases, as well as better felony crime cases in general, to emerge from the new Neighborhood-based Policing Model, now in 31 NYPD commands and scheduled to be in 40 by this fall. As officers work more closely with community members and community groups under the model, the store of criminal intelligence grows and all of the Department’s investigative and crime suppression efforts become that much more effective.
Important crime problems remain. The NYPD Grand Larceny Division is expanding its reach and improving its tactics against an increase of electronic device theft, credit card and check fraud, and identity theft. The NYPD Transit Bureau is redoubling its efforts to apprehend the gropers, grinders, and indecent exposers who target women on subway trains. The NYPD Special Victims Unit is systematically reaching out to rape victims, seeking more reports of this chronically underreported crime to better investigate and prevent rapes. The NYPD has mounted a comprehensive effort to improve our services to all crime victims, including a funded initiative to place victim advocates from Safe Horizon full-time in every precinct and public housing police service area over the next three years. We seek not only a safer city but a more humane one, where crime victims are treated with dignity and consideration and can quickly access the available resources and services to help them through the personal crises that victimization can cause.