NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton brandished the department's most recent crime stats report yesterday as proof that his officers are back in the business of enforcing petty offenses. "We are still concerned with the levels of activity, but they are returning to normal," Bratton said. "With each passing day, each passing week, those numbers are going back up to what we describe as normal levels."
"There is no specific target number that we go for," Bratton added. "There are no quotas, if you will."
From December 29th through January 4th, as police turned their backs to the mayor at a second funeral and declined to issue a single summons in Times Square on New Year's Eve, overall arrests plummeted by 60%, while parking tickets, moving violations, and summonses for drinking in public and turnstile jumping all decreased by around 90%, compared to the same time period last year.
As the police unions seethed and the mayor floundered, Bratton triangulated, expressing outrage at the officers who turned their backs at the funeral while also articulating the reasons—fear, contracts, exhaustion—why cops might be upset.
For the week of January 5th through 14th, the total number of arrests have increased by 14%, but are still 44% below "normal"; 6,177 arrests in 2015 compared with 11,159 for the same time period last year. Parking summonses are still down by 79%, but moving violations and criminal summonses are down by 71% and 76% respectively. There is also typically a lag of several days as summonses are processed, so the real-time numbers might be higher.
For the first 12 days of January 2015, overall crime also dropped by 10.8%, which Bratton called "very positive news, continuing the historic 21-year decline in crime that we've been experiencing in the city."
If the drop in crime was a point of pride, Bratton said that it would be wrong to draw any conclusions from it coinciding with a precipitous fall in low-level enforcement.
"The so-called quality of life, Broken Windows enforcement action that I'm so supportive of, the trending of that would take a period of time that can't be measured in the space of a week or now it's almost 2 weeks, it would take a much longer period of time."
He added, "Quality of life calls have increased, and they're increasing again this year….A few of the critics of it, I'm sorry, they're outnumbered by the vast majority of New Yorkers who don't like people smoking marijuana in their hallways or urinating on their front step, or prostitutes plying their trade on their corners, so we're listening to New Yorkers who call us."
Greenpoint resident Nora Woolley and her husband were letting their dog run around off-leash in an abandoned asphalt park in Greenpoint on Saturday when she was approached by officers who said they'd received such a call. "I hate to do this," the officer told her, "but my sergeant got a call, someone complained about the dog. There is supposed to be a football game here now and they can't play until the dog is gone."
Woolley and her husband waited in the bitter cold as officers in an idling squad car wrote up a summons. When a second officer finally emerged to deliver it, Woolley asked him about the football game that was supposedly scheduled for the paved lot in the bitter cold. "What football game?" the second officer replied.
Woolley is one of many New Yorkers who've contacted us since Saturday to report that the slowdown has turned into a "broken windows" crackdown.
The commissioner also denied reports that NYPD leaders were withholding vacation time until cops started writing summonses again, though he did say that more DWI and seatbelt checkpoints were created to nudge police to get back to work (DWI enforcement is down by 43%, representing 97 arrests this past week compared to 149 over the same period in 2014).
"Despite the reporting in several of the news outlets, we have not been canceling vacations, by contract we cannot, unless in terms of an emergency situation. What we are dealing with is not an emergency situation."
Since the two NYPD detectives were killed on December 20th, the department has received 126 threats; 85 of them are closed, 41 are still being investigated, and 21 people have been arrested.
"We have a lot of very tired cops, including a lot of the leadership here, who are out every night, night after night on demonstrations, that wears on you," Bratton said, before adding that those demonstrations have now subsided to a "normal" amount."