Remember in June when the city's tabloids were screaming that the city might be barreling back in time to the days of four-figure murder rates and now might be the time to ramp up stop-and-frisk anew—not that they had enough data to go on, just that things were maybe starting to look that way? Well, that may have been premature. Police Commissioner Bill Bratton, having flooded streets in some neighborhoods with 330 cops usually on desk duty and successfully pressured City Hall into hiring 1,300 more recruits, would like everybody to know that this summer was the safest on record.
For the period of June 1st to August 31st, the city logged 345 shootings and 82 murders, which Bratton says is the lowest since the department started its CompStat record-keeping program in the early 1990s. Police have not said how many shootings or murders there were during the same period last summer, nor was it immediately clear what other violent crime numbers looked like for either period, but we've asked for that information and will update if we hear back.
Shootings are down by 11 so far this year as a whole, compared to the same time last year. Still, there have been 13 more murders so far this year than there were at the same time last year, and there have been 47 more rapes. Also, as the New York Post points out, there were:
mixed results in 15 precincts where cops were assigned overtime starting May 4 as part of an anti-violence effort.
Those areas overlap with 10 precincts where cops usually assigned to desk duties were put on the street under the "Summer All Out" program that began June 8. Results there showed that serious felonies dipped 4.8 percent and shootings declined 5.1 percent compared to last year, but murders were up 13.8 percent.
Most of the additional murders took place in just two precincts: the 44th in the South Bronx — where 19 cops were recently charged with underreporting crimes — and Brooklyn's 70th, which covers Ditmas Park, Flatbush, Midwood and Kensington.
Mayor de Blasio, whose staffers recently invited the public to ask him questions on Twitter as part of their Direct Public Contact efforts, has not yet learned the number one rule of the internet: don't feed the trolls. Hence, he showed his thin skin for all to see by packaging the low-violence news with a shot at the Post.
— Bill de Blasio (@BilldeBlasio) September 3, 2015
Commissioner Bratton, meanwhile, took to MSNBC's Morning Joe to tout the stats. When lobbed an invitation to pontificate on the cause of murders increasing in cities elsewhere in the country by cancer-victim fabricator and fellow elderly white guy from Boston Mike Barnicle, Bratton didn't bat an eye. The commissioner just so happened to be reading onetime senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan's 1965 report "The Negro Family: The Case For National Action" over the weekend and he thinks it was right on. Only now social decay has "gone beyond just the black community." The question starts at 2:36:
For reference, the exchange is transcribed here:
Barnicle: Is the value of life lower among young teenagers who are out there? The access they have to guns? What has happened in that cycle?
Bratton: In our inner cities unfortunately we have a very large population of young people who have grown up in an environment where the traditional norms and values are not there. In our case, 60 percent of our murders in this city are over disputes, seemingly innocuous things to most people, but rise to levels where people kill each other. We had a murder yesterday: a woman kills her boyfriend because she thinks he’s cheating on him, and then she gets her son and together the two of them drag the body out into an alley and they set him on fire. I’m not even sure if he was dead at the time they set him on fire. Who can explain this?
In my 101 Precinct the other day, we had a young man shot on the corner. Two years ago, his brother was murdered on the same corner. So two brothers killed on the same corner within two years of each other.
No, there's something going on in our society in the inner cities. I had occasion over the weekend to read Senator Moynihan's famous treatise from the '60s. Go read that again. Talk about being prescient about what was going to happen in black society in terms of, he was right on the money. The disintegration of family, the disintegration of values. And it's gone beyond just the black community, although so much of what you're reading in the New York Times is centered largely in communities of color in our major cities. We really need to find good ways to deal with this.
Activists with Communities United for Police Reform were not happy with this. The group's Veronica Bayetti Flores issued the following statement:
"Police Commissioner Bratton has now once again promoted regressive and racist views that seek to place blame for crime and other societal challenges on the 'values' of black families and those of other New Yorkers of color. It's insulting and troubling for these extreme comments to be made by a top member of city government, and his comfort in doing so speaks to the challenges our city and country still face with racism."
The way Bratton talks about "the disintegration of values" in "black society" probably won't endear him further to the black officers he is having so much trouble hiring. But it bears keeping in mind that, as author Ta-Neihisi Coates points out in a blog post for The Atlantic, "people love to quote Moynihan's thoughts on the crisis of the black family. Quoting Moynihan on the how and why of the crisis? Not so much." In the report, in addition to laying out data about "the deterioration of the Negro family," Moynihan provides a sweeping narration of American history and the government policies that brought the country to this point. He writes:
That the Negro American has survived at all is extraordinary — a lesser people might simply have died out, as indeed others have. That the Negro community has not only survived, but in this political generation has entered national affairs as a moderate, humane, and constructive national force is the highest testament to the healing powers of the democratic ideal and the creative vitality of the Negro people. But it may not be supposed that the Negro American community has not paid a fearful price for the incredible mistreatment to which it has been subjected over the past three centuries.
Maybe Bratton didn't get that far?