FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 2, 2005
MAYOR BLOOMBERG DISCUSSES CRIME REDUCTION STRATEGIES AT CITIZEN'S CRIME COMMISSION BREAKFAST
Mayor Bloomberg's prepared remarks are below. Please check against delivery:
Thank you, Ivan, and good morning everyone. This is the second time I've reported to you on our Administration's success in fighting crime.
Continuing to win the war on crime in New York has involved marshalling, to an unprecedented degree, the full resources of the city's entire criminal justice system - not just the police, but also the courts, prosecutors, probation, parole, and correction officers, and others.
Our strategy, as I said in my first speech to you 22 months ago, is a "new, sharper, and successful focus by the NYPD and other criminal justice agencies on problem people and problem places."
This "problem people/problem places" approach has been applied to a broad range of crime-fighting challenges, from suppressing graffiti and quality-of-life offenses to preventing the most serious and violent crimes.
Today, I want to update you on the remarkable results it has achieved. And I also want to outline what the newest elements of our crime-fighting strategy will be. Because the war against crime can never be static, and complacency would be a prelude to certain failure.
To put my remarks in context, first remember just where New York City stood when our Administration took office.
In the aftermath of 9/11, New York's economy was hemorrhaging jobs during a severe national recession. City government was plunging into a fiscal crisis required every City agency, including the NYPD, to tighten its belt.
As a result, Commissioner Kelly has had 4,000 fewer officers to put on the streets, at the same time that some 1,000 of his best men and women have assumed new and very demanding counter-terrorism and intelligence duties.
Given these circumstances, back in 2002, few people believed that we would be able to hold onto the crime-fighting gains made during the previous decade.
Well, we've proved them wrong-and then some. Our success in fighting crime is truly the envy of the nation. We have continued, and in some respects even accelerated, the historic drop in crime that began in the early 90s.
We've driven crime 20% lower than it was four years ago. During 2004, we had the fewest murders since 1963. It was our third consecutive year with fewer than 600 homicides. A third of the way into the current year, homicides are down another 14%; they are 28% lower than they were four years ago.
The FBI's Uniform Crime Index Report confirms that we are the safest big city in America; it ranks us 203rd of the 217 cities with populations of 100,000 or more. We're right between Alexandria, Virginia and Ann Arbor, Michigan.
The "problem people/problem places" strategy continues to shape every aspect of this success.
Many elements of that strategy were either brand new, or had not even been implemented, the last time I was here.
For example, take the NYPD's "Operation Impact." It was launched on a six-month trial basis in January 2003 - and in my last speech here, I announced that our Administration would extend that experiment for the rest of that year.
Since then, Operation Impact, which we have now extended into its third year, has become in many respects the centerpiece of the Police Department's success in driving crime down.
Each day for the last 28 months, we have deployed a combination of up to 1,000 new and veteran officers to targeted high-crime zones throughout the city. During that time, these officers have made more than 72,000 arrests. They drove crime in the Impact Zones down by 33% during 2003, by more than 26% last year, and so far this year, by another 25%.
In the 75th Precinct, in East New York, the transformation has been truly remarkable. Not so long ago, this was "murder central" in our city. In 1993, there were 129 homicides in the Seven-Five. By last year, it had been reduced to 29-but even after that remarkable decline, the Seven-Five still led the city in murders.
So in January, we launched Operation Trident, to better focus resources and drive down crime in this precinct. And with a third of the year over, crime is down 18%, and murders are down 33%. In fact, the total number of homicides in the precinct in 2005 is six. Six! While even one murder is one to many, this is undeniable progress. And because of it, major retailers are beginning to open stores in East New York for the first time in years.
Nor is it an isolated success story. Other areas traditionally plagued by high levels of crime have seen similar remarkable turnarounds. In Bushwick, covered by the 83rd Precinct, murders are down nearly 88% this year. In the 60th Precinct, in Coney Island, they're down 83%. And in the Impact Zone we've established in the Port Richmond area of Staten Island, crime is down almost 85%.
Even as Operation Impact has concentrated on the most serious street crimes, the NYPD has not taken its eye off quality-of-life enforcement. We know that if seemingly petty offenses like jumping turnstiles and aggressive panhandling are left unchecked, they create the environment in which more dangerous crime flourishes.
One of our Administration's first actions was to launch "Operation Clean Sweep," aimed at stopping offenses like aggressive panhandling. To date, it has resulted in some 33,000 arrests and 350,000 summonses.
And the NYPD's "Operation Silent Night," which was launched in October, 2002, has focused on the number one quality of life complaint in New York: noise. In fact, our Administration has proposed a new City Noise Code that will go a long way toward permitting more of us to enjoy some peace, quiet and a good night's rest, even in the city that never sleeps. And we're calling on the City Council to pass the Noise Code this year.
In the meantime, "Silent Night" is doing the job. Officers have used "311" complaints about noise to identify the worst "problem places" in the city. Over the last 2 ½ years, Operation Silent Night has produced more than 18,000 arrests; it is curbing the disorderly behavior that can incubate serious crime; and it has provided us a model that we are now applying to a citywide campaign cracking down on graffiti.
But impressive as these achievements are, they have not occurred in a vacuum. They have been coordinated with equally data-driven and intensely focused efforts in the courts, and in other criminal justice agencies. And these integrated initiatives have multiplied the effectiveness of the NYPD's law enforcement efforts.
A striking example is an initiative that was brand-new the last time I was here: The "gun court." It was our way to stop the all-too-common practice of punishing the serious crime of felony gun possession with meaningless "slaps on the wrist." So we established a court part staffed by specially trained prosecutors dedicated to aggressively handling felony gun possession cases every step of the way, from arrest and arraignment to disposition.
We worked with District Attorney Charles Hynes to launch the first gun court in Brooklyn in May 2003. Its original jurisdiction covered cases from five police precincts that accounted for half the shootings in Kings County, and a fourth of all shootings citywide. In January 2004, it began hearing gun cases from throughout Brooklyn.
And the results have been just what we hoped for. Over the last two years, the percentage of gun cases in Brooklyn resulting in jail sentences has increased from 71% to 88%, sentences of a year or more have nearly doubled, and median jail time has quadrupled. The effects have been felt on the streets; in those five original precincts, the number of shooting incidents was cut by 15% between 2002 and the end of last year.
The gun court has proven such a success that when it went borough wide in Brooklyn, we also expanded it to Queens and the Bronx. It has led to more and longer jail sentences in gun possession cases in those boroughs as well.
Another initiative, called "Operation Spotlight," aimed at ending the turnstile justice that returned prostitutes shoplifters, low-level drug offenders, and other chronic misdemeanants to our streets despite dozens of previous arrests. We aimed the "spotlight" on the 6 per cent of repeat offenders who account for three times their share of these crimes.
So, we've flagged their cases for special attention in Spotlight courts in each borough. We started the first one in Queens with the help of District Attorney Richard Brown. And the result: Since Operation Spotlight was launched 2 ½ years ago, the percentage of cases resulting in jail time has increased from 45% to 67%.
To combat rape and sexual assault on our streets, we established "STOP," the "Specially Targeted Offenders Project." It identifies the City's most dangerous sex offenders for heightened supervision and enhanced prosecution in special court parts in each borough.
In 2003 and 2004, arrests for violations of the state's "Megan's Law," which requires sex offenders to register with law enforcement agencies, more than doubled. And they're up another 73% so far this year.
Zeroing in on sex offenders is also a major element in "Operation Safe Housing," our still-developing, multi-faceted, multi-agency initiative to reduce crime in the city's public housing developments. One out of every 20 New Yorkers lives in public housing-and it's our responsibility to ensure their safety.
Last November, we put a system in place to expedite evictions of sex offenders, gun offenders, and drug dealers from public housing. We're also banning convicted drug dealers from public housing, and arresting them for trespassing if they return. And parole officers will soon be posted directly to public housing developments to tighten supervision of parolees living there.
All of these initiatives capitalize on our ability to mine, refine, and use data, from CompStat and other sources, about problem people and problem places.
Indeed, today effective law enforcement is all about pattern recognition. And the hallmark of the next phase of our crime-fighting efforts will be the increasingly sophisticated use of information technology and DNA evidence.
To identify and stop emerging crime patterns before they become crime waves, and to ensure that dangerous criminals who might otherwise go uncaught and unpunished face justice.
Later this year, we'll unveil a "Real-Time Crime Fighting Center" at One Police Plaza. It will merge high-tech data-mining and analysis under one roof to identify crime patterns and the people responsible for them in record time. It will equip cops on the beat to take criminals off the streets faster than ever before, by giving them the timely leads they need to stop criminals like serial rapists and hardened robbers in their tracks.
It will be complemented by a new $12 million information technology initiative called "Data Share." It will dramatically improve how the police, prosecutors, courts, Correction Department, and other criminal justice agencies communicate and work together.
Using DataShare, a detective investigating a pattern of robberies will be able to receive a message on his blackberry the minute a person matching the perpetrator's description is arrested anywhere in the city. An Assistant District Attorney in the Bronx will be able to receive an e-mail when a defendant to whom he is about to offer a plea bargain is arrested in Queens. A precinct commander can sign up to be notified whenever sex offenders are released from prison into her precinct.
DataShare will, in short, get much, much more of the right information to the right people at the right time. The result will be quicker arrests and a safer city.
More and better collection and use of DNA evidence will also put a powerful new tool in the hands of police and prosecutors. That's especially important in prosecuting criminals who commit rape and sexual assault, where the ten-year statute of limitations represents a major roadblock for investigators working on "cold cases." To address that problem, we've developed our "John Doe Indictment Project."
Last week, it was front page news when DNA evidence identified a prisoner at Rikers Island as the suspect in two dozen rapes and sexual assaults committed here, in New Jersey, and in Maryland between the late 1970s and early 1990s.
Bob Morgenthau put it very well when he said that "It ought to send a chill through a lot of defendants to know that after 32 years, you can still test for DNA."
Because the NYPD has a well-deserved reputation for being able to crack years-old cases, we're confident that that chill will someday be felt by suspects charged on the basis of their DNA profiles under the John Doe Indictment Project. Already, 55 indictments have been handed up as the result of this project's efforts over the last 16 months-and the first to result in an arrest is now being handled by Richmond County District Attorney Dan Donovan's staff.
When the identities of "John Does" become known-even if the arrests come long after the statute of limitations has expired-they will face justice.
Collecting and preserving DNA evidence also plays an important part in the work of our Administration's "Sexual Assault Response Teams, " or SARTs. We worked with District Attorney Robert Johnson to set up the first SART as a pilot project in the Bronx two years ago. SART will go citywide this fall.
We established SART because the first hours after a rape are critical. Victims who have been traumatized and, all too often, shamed, by their attackers need quick reassurance that investigators and prosecutors will be on their side every step of the way. At the same time, the first hours after a rape are critical to collecting and preserving DNA and other forensic evidence.
The trained health care professionals in SART will accomplish both those sensitive and important tasks. Their mission is to respond to every rape victim coming into targeted public hospitals within one hour-and over the last two years in the Bronx, they've hit that target better than 90% of the time.
The Bronx pilot has resulted in fuller cooperation by rape victims, a more complete evidentiary picture of the injuries they've suffered, and better, stronger cases for conviction. And we're confident these results will be matched when SART goes citywide.
Thanks to the news media, we all know how valuable DNA evidence has become in investigating and prosecuting murders and rapes. Now we're beginning to use it to solve property crimes as well. An NYPD pilot program in Queens, called "Bio-tracks," has given burglary investigators the tools they need to collect DNA samples at crime scenes. The results have been extremely encouraging-and we're actively looking for ways to extend this program to other boroughs and to other fields of investigation as well.
Our "problem people/problem places" strategy emerged in the aftermath of 9/11. And our post-9/11 efforts to protect our city from terrorism have been a parallel priority of our Administration. More than any other Americans, New Yorkers know that preparedness is essential. That's a message that I delivered in Washington last month when I visited Michael Chertoff, the new Secretary of Homeland Security.
Our Administration's anti-terrorism efforts have been varied and robust.
Over the last four years we have dramatically increased the number of officers assigned to the NYPD's intelligence and counter-terrorism bureaus.
We have posted detectives to London, Singapore, Tel Aviv and other cities halfway around the world.
The NYPD, the most diverse police force in the nation, has tapped deep into its rich reserve of native speakers to use their fluency in Urdu, Arabic, Pashtu, and Bengali in the fight against terrorism.
And our law enforcement and emergency preparedness officials have established and maintained new information-sharing protocols with their counterparts in the Federal government.
These efforts have produced results. Two years ago, an Al Qaeda operative stood on the Brooklyn Bridge with plans to take it down. But he was discouraged by all the security that the NYPD had put in place. Remember his message? "The weather is too hot." If we hadn't made it "too hot," Joe Hynes might have taken a ferry from Brooklyn to get here this morning. And a year ago, an NYPD detective helped in an investigation that led to a suspect being indicted on 11 terrorism-related charges.
Most New Yorkers are only vaguely aware of the threats these terrorists posed. And in a way, that's a good thing. It shows that we're letting the professionals do the job of protecting our city.
But they need help from our Federal government. And that's why today I urge the members of the Citizens Crime Commission to join me in voicing the strongest possible objections to the Federal Homeland Security funding bill now going before the full Senate.
It represents a giant step backward from what President Bush has proposed, what the 9/11 Commission recommended, and what I have long argued is simply common sense:
That Homeland Security funding be based on risk, and risk alone.
Instead, this bill would increase funds going to states that are not high-risk targets and decrease funding to genuine high-risk areas, including New York City.
The message that this sends to America's enemies is clear and clearly dangerous: That the government of the United States has not yet fully learned the lessons of 9/11. It will confirm them in their belief that democracies are inherently feckless and doomed.
Now, in our hearts, we know that just the opposite is true, that we are a resilient and resourceful people, made strong by our devotion to freedom.
The recovery of our city over the last 3 ½ years, a recovery in which our continued success in fighting crime has been so instrumental, demonstrates that.
From the outset, our Administration has been determined to send the clear, consistent message that New York is safe-that we are a safe place to visit, a safe place in which to live and raise a family, and a safe place to start or expand a business.
Even though that message has the benefit of being true, after 9/11 it was, understandably, not always an easy one to get across. But our continued success in reducing crime has lent undeniable proof to support it.
Recall what I said earlier this morning about the desperate straits New York's economy was in four years ago. And now consider this:
Today, the city's unemployment rate is 5.2%--the lowest it has been since January 2001. We've had 20 consecutive months of job growth, and more people work in New York City now than at any time since 1978.
Tourism, which supports a quarter-million jobs in our city, plunged after 9/11. Today, our airports and hotels are packed. Last year, we set a new record of nearly 40 million visitors to our city, and we're on course to break that record again in 2005.
Our commercial vacancy rate has gone down steadily over the last six quarters. A construction boom continues in all five boroughs. Residential property values have appreciated by more than 80% over the last four years.
Today, our city is moving forward again. Our success in fighting crime has been crucial to making that happen. And if we continue to follow the course we've set, defending New York against all threats.
Those that arise from criminals on our streets as well as those contemplated in distant lands, then our best days as a city are still ahead.
Edward Skyler / Robert Lawson (212) 788-2958