Commissioner O’Neill began his speech by reminding the room filled with New Yorkers what the city used to be like, citing a general, citywide fear of crime, which was at record highs when he joined the transit police in 1983, while images of “old” New York’s graffiti-riddled train cars and broken down buildings illuminated the screens behind him.
In a sharp contrast, these scenes gave way to images of the city today, as the commissioner remarked on the record low crime statistics that New York City is experiencing today, in a time when many other major American cities are seeing just the opposite. The city’s recent successes in crime suppression are due largely to several of the NYPD’s sea-changes in policing.
“Let me be clear,” said Police Commissioner O’Neill, “we are reworking the entire way the NYPD protects New York City. And we’re redefining the role of NYPD police officer. We’re conducting a complete overhaul of a system that has been in place since the advent of the radio car in the 1940s, and the 9-1-1 system in the 1970s.”
Commissioner O’Neill remarked on neighborhood policing, the approach architected by himself and several members of the NYPD’s current administration, noting how it forges an alliance between cop and community member, with the end goal of sharing the responsibility for a safer city. The commissioner also spoke to the importance of the department’s long-term, intensive, unified investigations, which are often fueled by information obtained through neighborhood policing, and are aimed at ridding neighborhood streets of the small amount of criminals who drive a majority of the city’s violent crime.
Guests were not only treated to breakfast and a rousing speech by Commissioner O’Neill, but also to a copy of the 2017 Police Commissioner’s Report, a 92-page document that breaks down the functionality of neighborhood policing from the borough-level, to the precinct-level, to the sector-level, or the “boots on the ground” in each patrol borough; and to the first viewing of the department’s new flagship video, narrated by Grace Hightower De Niro, which captured the spirit of the day, and is aptly titled “Shared Responsibility.”
The session closed with a question and answer session, during which, many community council presidents took the opportunity to thank the commissioner personally for the hard work of the officers he oversees, and for the successes they’ve been seeing in their communities recently. The best thing—is that there is much more to come. This is just the beginning.
Going forward, the NYPD and the New York City Police Foundation will be actively reaching out to all of New York City’s diverse communities—from business owners to civic leaders, to local neighborhood residents—in order to thoroughly engage everyone in sharing the responsibility for the safety of the neighborhoods that they live and work in.
“Public safety is a shared responsibility” said Police Commissioner O’Neill, “and we need everyone’s help. This isn’t about kissing babies and checking off a box on a monthly activity sheet. This is a complete paradigm shift in how we’re protecting our city.”