2004-06-02 / Editorials



We’re Safest Big City In U.S.—Everybody Has A Hand In It

Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly and every cop in the city—indeed, every New Yorker,—could be justly proud of last week’s news that the FBI ranks New York City as the safest large city in the United States.

The FBI figures showed that crime here dropped 5.8 percent in 2003. Among the 230 cities with populations of 100,000 or more people, New York City ranks 211th, an improvement from 203d last year. That puts us ahead of major cities like Los Angeles, Chicago and Las Vegas.

What’s more, while serious crime in the United States rose by less than one-tenth of 1 percent in 2002, New York City’s crime rate decreased 5 percent, to the lowest level since the 1960s.

A pumped-up Mayor Bloomberg crowed: "New York City has not only retained the title as the safest big city in the country, it has defied the odds and become even safer." he added: "While conventional wisdom said New York’s crime rate would increase in a recession and fiscal crisis, the Police Department proved it wrong."

Surprisingly, during the city’s recent fiscal crisis, the mayor reduced the police force by about 5,000 police officers, to 37,000, but FBI stats showed we did more with less. What’s more, the New York Police Department has had tremendous pressure placed on it by the war on terrorism.

Kelly noted that despite the necessity of having to focus a tremendous amount of resources on counter-terrorism, the 2003 homicide rate could be either the lowest or second lowest in 40 years.

How do we do it? Some say it’s because of the technological breakthroughs that gave us the CompStat program, which tracks the areas where crime is on the upswing, alerting police brass to respond by building up resources in those trouble spots.

Although Kelly agrees that CompStat has done wonders here and in other cities, he maintains, "If there’s one single reason for the reduction in crime, it is the quality and the dedication of New York City police officers."

Certainly, programs that have come on-line in recent years have helped tremendously, such as the Safe Streets/Safe City program developed through the efforts of former City Council Speaker Peter Vallone, or the COPS program under which local congressmembers have kept pressure on Washington to keep funneling funding to hire cops to the city.

But there’s another element—the whole community policing concept and the attention focused on quality of life crimes.

Although the last named are not considered to be in the same category as murder, rape or burglaries, police officials have found that when attention is focused on these less serious crimes, as was the case during Rudolph Giuliani’s term as mayor, the frequency of the serious crimes was also reduced.

Community policing has also grown in importance in recent years, as local organizations and area residents have become more tuned in to crime in their community and the performance of both the cop on the beat and the precinct commander. As these local watchdogs are more vocal when they see things getting out of hand and crime statistics start to creep up, they force the local police to react sooner and deal with problems before they get out of hand.

All these elements—more attention to quality of life crimes or offenses, more cops walking the beat in every neighborhood in the city and a more alert and responsive citizenry—have collectively helped to keep serious crime in check.

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