"Crime/Police" refers to criminal activity, the
efforts to combat it, and its impact on city life.
Near-synonyms:Criminal Justice; Public Safety.
The decline in the NYC crime rate may be the
greatest story of the decade. But in the wake of the Louima and Diallo
cases, NYPD practices have come under scrutiny. Accusations of racial
bias, abuse of power and infringement on civil liberties abound. What
is the balance between civil liberty and civil order? Who decides?
Jessica Green is a
student of public policy at Columbia University's Graduate School of
International and Public Affairs.
In the News: National Night Out and Community Policing
(Aug-Sept '00)The last year has been a difficult one for the New York Police Department:
the police shootings of Amadou Diallo and Patrick Dorismond; the subsequent
acquittal of the
officers involved in the Diallo case; the lack of diplomacy by
Commissioner Safir and Mayor Giuliani. All have increased the mistrust that
many have felt toward the police for a long time.
But for the past 16 years, something out of the ordinary occurs on the first
Tuesday night of August, and this year is no different. It is called National
Night Out -- an evening of cooperation, communication, celebration, a series
of activities throughout the country and throughout the city including
basketball games between precinct teams and community groups, live music,
staffed information booths, and magic shows. National Night Out is sponsored
by the National Association of Town Watch, the same
group that sponsors Neighborhood Watch groups.
The success of National Night Out is irrefutable: Since its founding in
1984, it has grown to involve over 30 million people in more
than 9,000 communities. It is part of a growing trend toward community
policing - a crime-fighting strategy based on the idea that a strong
relationship between the police and the community is the key to lower crime
frequently, such a relationship is forged by having beat cops patrol the
same areas, often on foot, so that area residents come to know their police
officers. Other basic strategies of community policing involve outreach
programs and community collaboration. Both the National Center for
Community Policing and Policing.com offer what amounts to a primer on community policing - -
its history, implementation and results.
The NYPD runs a host of
programs to involve community residents and respond to their needs. Just
last month, a Staten Island prosecutor announced the opening of a community
office in Tottenville. The purpose of the field office, District
Attorney William Murphy said, is to work more closely with the residents to
identify community needs and issues, and "to solve problems before they
Staten Island is not alone. Every precinct in the City has its own programs
and community policing unit. Here are just a few examples:
Auxiliary Police Program. The 111th precinct in Bayside is one of several
precincts throughout the city where civilians are trained to be volunteers of
Wearing uniforms and patrolling in groups, they act as the eyes and ears of
often at large community events where security is necessary.
Model Block Program. Tenants organize block associations to monitor and
maintain the quality of their block.
Precinct Open Houses. This is meant to encourage informal
interactions between police and the community.
Youth Programs. A variety of youth programs are in place across the City,
including the "Explorers Program." Open to high schoolers, these Explorers
meet once a week at the precinct. Activities range from participating in
community functions, such as parades and fairs, to field trips to law
enforcement agencies, to rollerblading and athletic activities. During the
school year 1998-99, the Explorers program and other youth programs reached
over 117,000 youths.
Domestic Violence Program. The 83rd precinct in Bushwick tracks all
domestic violence cases reported. It collaborates with the Victims Service
Agency to provide counseling and social services to battered women.
Critics say these programs are little more than a gesture, and that racism
and abuse of power persist within the department. The US Commission on
Civil Rights released a widely-publicized report in June which found that
the NYPD was guilty of racial profiling in its stop-and-frisk practices.
Among its recommendations: adopt community policing strategies --
specifically, encourage more officers to live in the areas they police.
The Department of Housing and Urban Development's "Officer Next Door" program
is trying to do just that, by offering
police officers 50 percent savings on a home that they purchase in designated
"revitalization areas" in inner city neighborhoods across the country.
There are 53 such areas in New York City. It is unclear as of yet how many
officers have taken advantage of the offer.
A recently released report on the New York Police Department's disciplinary
actions against officers found that, despite the greater attention brought by
the high-profile cases, there was actually a 25 percent drop in the
allegations of police brutality last year. Public Advocate Mark Green also
produced a report, though with far more damning statistics, entitled
Disciplining Police: Solving the Problem of Police Misconduct.
Whether the situation of police brutality is getting worse or getting better,
many suggest that one way to curtail it is through community
Five Sites For Beginners:
"Just the facts ma'am." The official site for the Finest, with the
official information: precincts, crimestoppers, FAQs. All right, so
the site exists in a vacuum. What did you expect, a page on policy
Federal Bureau of
Investigation, Unit for Crime Reports - This nationwide cooperative
effort provides statistics on crime as reported from over 17,000 city,
county and state law enforcement entities. Every crime statistic
imaginable, all in downloadable format. Especially dramatic: the Crime
Clock in the executive summary.
Vera Institute for Justice -
Non-profit foundation that works with State and Federal governments to
study and implement policy. Impressive range of topics, especially on
what happens after the crime is committed (e.g. drug rehab,
York State Assembly - Unveils Public Safety 2000: an 8-point
crimebusting proposal from the Democratic-controlled Assembly. The
criminal is political--check out the anti-Pataki potshots for a preview
of where Albany's battle lines will be drawn.
Mothers Against Drunk Driving -
Comprehensive and informative, and especially timely now that the new
car seizure laws are in place. With stats on local DUI rates and info
on NY chapters.
Families Against Mandatory Minimums - As the nation's prison
population nears 2 million inmates, most for non-violent (read:
offenses, even conservative commentators are seeking to repeal
mandatory-minimum drug sentencing laws. FAMM's site includes a brief
(including a section on NY's Rockefeller drug laws), updates on pending
legislation, and stories from prisoners and their families.
NYC Dept. of Corrections - Dig a little to find
revealing stats and information about NYC's jails (e.g. average annual cost
per inmate, 1998: $45,026). In the archive section, check out the timeline
of NYC's correctional facilities (did you know City Hall once housed
dangerous prisoners in the basement?)
Scandals - A good introduction to Wall Street crooks and classic
heists, among other corporate crimes. Too text-heavy, but don't miss
the section on pension fund scandals before you hand your Social
Security money to J.P. Morgan.
The John Gotti Tribute
Page - Free John Gotti! An amusing mafia site that includes
lessons on Italian profanities and a rant against the "Witless
Protection Program." Also provides a good Links page for those
interested in more traditional approaches to Organized Crime.