For the NYPD, size does matter
Jan 05, 2010 | 2533 views | 0 0 comments | 43 43 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Two days after being sworn in for a third term, Mayor Michael Bloomberg took to the airwaves in his weekly radio address to assure New Yorkers theirs is, once again, the safest big city in the country.

The mayor cited police statistics showing a drop in most major crimes in 2009.

For the second straight year in the past three, the city recorded under 500 murders. Less people were murdered last year than at anytime since 1963. Rapes, burglaries and grand larcenies, too, are down from 2008.

Indeed, the mayor pointed out, under his watch citywide crime has been reduced dramatically. Since 2001, murders, rapes and auto theft have been cut 29, 38 and 64 percent, respectively; in the past eight years “most serious felonies” are down by almost 35 percent combined, according to the mayor.

Last year's reduced crime rates are especially remarkable given the economic recession. Wisdom holds that bad economies produce a spike in crime, but this wasn't the case in New York.

The mayor didn't explain why. He didn't have to, really. In the end, credit goes where credit's due: the New York City Police Department.

After celebrating, however, the NYPD should pause to consider the year ahead. In what ways will it be the same as 2009? In what ways will it be different? Here, let's touch on just one major challenge.

We know the police department isn't getting any bigger. Its most recent graduating class was a far cry from years past. If you're a fan of the largest possible police force, the NYPD's attrition on Bloomberg's watch should be alarming: the force has shrunk from around 40,000 officers ten years ago to approximately 35,000 today.

That means fewer cops and the loss of bike patrols altogether in some places. Long gone are the days when residents from Brooklyn Heights to Maspeth knew their beat cops.

Don't expect them to return anytime soon, either. While nobody is proposing slashing funding for the police department, the city isn't proposing massive budget increases either. Facing a massive budget deficit this year, the police, like the fire department and everybody else, will most likely have to make do with what they have, more or less.

Which is a good or a bad thing, depending on who you ask and where they live. In any case, as the recession continues, so does crime. If it increases at all, will the police be ready to handle it?

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