In a memo circulated by his administration today, Mayor Bloomberg touted his record on crime, as part of his effort to enshrine a legacy that has left New Yorkers safer, but with a frayed relationship to its police department.
In an email titled, "T-Minus 5," Deputy Mayor of Governmental Affairs Howard Wolfson detailed the Bloomberg administration's efforts against unlawfulness, which coincided with a drop in crime to historic lows.
"New York City has fewer major felony crimes per 100,000 residents than any of the nation’s top 25 largest cities," Wolfson writes, also pointing out that murders have fallen by 49% since Bloomberg took office. Even with the crime rate dropping, the city claims it has also managed to reduce incarceration rates in New York City by 36% over the last twelve years.
The administration credits the Mayor's Young Men’s Initiative for the drop in crime. The program, the administration claims, helps young black and Latino men avoid the criminal justice system through mentoring and job counseling services, among other things.
Of course, Wolfson's press release sidesteps controversial issues that the Bloomberg administration has been widely criticized for, including the Stop & Frisk police tactic, which unconstitutionally stopped young black and Latino men on the street and searched them for weapons or drugs. While arrests for felonies have gone down in the city, arrests for misdemeanors remain near-record levels, with much of that coming from petty marijuana arrests or justice-system related offenses (bail jumping, contempt, etc.).
While marijuana arrests experienced a decline after 2011, the city courts are still clogged with people navigating the system, all stemming from low-level arrests that the city will sometimes not even bother prosecuting. And many minor offenses like public urination or turnstile jumping, which used to result in a summons, became cause for arrest, with perpetrators sometimes spending days being processed through Central Booking. Even when individuals are arrested for felonies, many still wait for years before being brought to trial.
The mayor's office says the state is to blame for widespread pre-trial incarceration. In an email to Gothamist, a spokesman wrote that "our criminal justice office exposed the severe problems with the state's court system and how it wastes dollars and, most paramount, delays a speedy trial and the administration of justice."
In his final days and following widespread dissent about his policing tacts, Bloomberg is trying to cement a legacy on crime that both reflects the decline in national crime rates and came with a surge in misdemeanor arrests and unconstitutional stops. Crime is down for New Yorkers, but at what cost?