Safe Streets, Safe Neighborhoods Across New York City

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New York City is the safest big city in the country because of constant innovation and dedicated policing. At the same time, New York is a Tale of Two Cities when it comes to the burdensome impact of overly-aggressive tactics that force a needless wedge between the NYPD and many communities across our city.

Bill de Blasio’s vision for public safety will maintain our advances in crime reduction by utilizing technology and smart anti-crime tactics. But he will also mend divisions between police and communities with important, much-needed reforms.

 

The De Blasio Record on Fighting Crime and Public Safety

Bill de Blasio is committed to keeping New Yorkers safe. Throughout his public service career, de Blasio has fought to build a robust public safety infrastructure and advocated for positive police-community relationships.

  • Fighting For Meaningful Stop-and-Frisk Reform. Bill de Blasio has used the office of the Public Advocate to extensively study how the tactic of stop-question-frisk is applied across New York. De Blasio initiated a report that revealed troubling racial disparities. Data shows that police stopped 49 white New Yorkers for every weapon taken off the streets, compared to 71 Latino New Yorkers, and 93 black New Yorkers stopped for every weapon yielded. This information strongly suggests racial profiling is used in stop-and-frisk, which sows seeds of distrust and animosity in communities of color toward the police. Reinforcing this concern, testimony in the Floyd v. New York case suggested that NYPD brass requires quotas even in the absence of suspicion of crime.  When communities in New York feel that the police officers are antagonists rather than partners in keeping their neighborhoods safe, it puts residents and officers at risk. Bill de Blasio has pushed for real reforms in stop-and-frisk by organizing communities and calling on Mayor Bloomberg to immediately end the overuse and abuse of this tactic. That’s why he has called for new leadership at the NYPD, an inspector general, and a strong racial profiling bill.
  • Increasing Police Resources. Early in his career, Bill de Blasio supported efforts that helped turn the tide in the high crime rates of the 1990s. While working in the Dinkins Administration, Bill de Blasio was part of the team that passed the “Safe Streets, Safe City” initiative, which significantly expanded the number of NYPD officers on the streets and helped reverse the terrible trends in violent crime. As a member of the City Council and Public Advocate, he has pushed to give police officers the resources they need. These actions include fighting for the passage of the Zadroga Act for 9/11 First Responders, holding the line on headcount reductions, and addressing the underlying systemic challenges contributing to crime.
  • Fighting for Greater Accountability. Bill de Blasio is a strong advocate for greater transparency and police accountability. He has called for an inspector general at the NYPD, and he helped lead the fight for real power for the Civilian Complaint Review Board by introducing legislation to create true budgetary independence and greater prosecutorial authority for this important oversight agency. Bill de Blasio also pushed for a federal investigation into private immigrant detention facilities and urged the revocation of the contract held with the GEO Group, after allegations surfaced of detainee abuse and mismanagement.
  • Supporting Commonsense Gun Safety. Bill de Blasio has pushed for strong gun safety laws at the state level and for the promotion of industry-wide standards in gun safety, including microstamping. De Blasio also led the effort to divest public pension fund holdings in companies that manufacture the most dangerous weapons and launched the “Wall Street for Change” campaign to support gun divestment of prominent hedge funds and money managers nationwide.

 

A Safer City For Every New Yorker

Bill de Blasio’s agenda for fighting crime and criminal justice focuses on smart, innovative policing and the restoration of trust between police officers and the communities they serve. To accomplish this, he will expand successful and targeted policing strategies while investing in technologies that support intelligence-driven responses to crime. Bill de Blasio will expand resources for force-multipliers like cameras and gunshot detection technology, and he will demand meaningful oversight and police accountability. He will also address commonsense criminal justice reforms by expanding alternatives to incarceration and increasing the number of community courts across the city. As mayor, he will listen to the voices of community stakeholders in public safety and criminal justice policy.

REPAIR POLICE-COMMUNITY RELATIONS

Create an Inspector General For the NYPD

Real oversight improves public safety by fostering trust in our police force. To accomplish this, Bill de Blasio will create an inspector general for the New York City Police Department. This position will have real investigatory powers and a truly independent budget to shield it from political reprisal. Virtually every major law enforcement agency nationwide has similar oversight agencies, as does nearly every major city agency. After growing community demands for police accountability, Bill de Blasio will provide the leadership necessary to finally create this important office.

Stop Racial Profiling

Some of our approaches to public safety — such as stop-and-frisk — disproportionately target people of color and create anger and distrust toward officers when we need more cooperation between cops and communities. Innocent New Yorkers should not be subject to invasive and baseless searches strictly on the account of race. Bill de Blasio will sign legislation to end racial profiling.

New Leadership at One Police Plaza

We need a new vision for the New York City Police Department, committed to reform, and this demands a new police commissioner. Commissioner Kelly has guided the NYPD through many challenges and should be credited for major gains made in public safety over the years. At the same time, One Police Plaza has been largely deaf to community concerns and unresponsive to demands for greater transparency. To truly turn a corner and embrace needed change, Bill de Blasio will select a police commissioner with demonstrable successes in driving down crime and the ability to mend police-community relations.

Direct the NYPD to Reduce Arrests for Marijuana Violations

In New York City, nearly 50,000 people were arrested last year for marijuana possession. Low-level marijuana possession arrests have disastrous consequences for individuals and their families. These arrests limit one’s ability to qualify for student financial aid and undermine one’s ability to find stable housing and good jobs. What’s more, recent studies demonstrate clear racial bias in arrests for low-level possession, with African-Americans arrested four times more frequently as whites — despite roughly equal usage rates. This policy is unjust and wrong.

First-time offenses for possession of small amounts of marijuana are supposed to be punishable by fine only, unless publicly displayed. Commissioner Kelly instructed NYPD officers to stop making arrests for marijuana possession unless it is in public view. However, too many young African-Americans and Hispanics — without prior convictions — are still arrested for marijuana possession after being stopped and frisked by police, who then treat it as public display.

Bill de Blasio will direct the NYPD to stop these misguided prosecutions and push for the passage of Governor Cuomo’s marijuana possession law, which would remove criminal penalties for marijuana possession under 15 grams. Bill de Blasio will enforce these standards and ensure cases of marijuana found through police stops are treated as possessions, not public displays. These commonsense changes will help reverse the racial impact of low-level marijuana arrests and align policing practices with constitutional protections.

INNOVATIVE, DATA-DRIVEN POLICING

Commit to Key Anti-Violence Strategies

Despite reductions in crime rates, gun violence continues to plague communities across the city. Illegal weapon possession and the prevalence of street crews wreak havoc in many neighborhoods. Mayor Bloomberg has demonstrated true leadership in addressing gun violence, but we cannot rely on stop-and-frisk to deter gun possession. We need a scalpel — not an axe — to target the small number of individuals responsible for gun violence. Bill de Blasio will make smart, targeted, and zero-tolerance policing a centerpiece of his crime-fighting agenda by supporting and expanding Operation Crew Cut and Focused Deterrence. These proven approaches target the real criminals — and stand in sharp contrast to inefficient dragnet tactics like stop-and- frisk. The fact that crime rates have continued to decline — while the NYPD has reduced stop-and-frisk — indicate that strategies like Crew Cut and Focused Deterrence are effective in getting the real criminals.

Expand Camera Use in All Five Boroughs

Cameras are essential tools in fighting crime, but they are heavily concentrated in Manhattan. Bill de Blasio will reduce the borough deficit in camera coverage by increasing the number of Argus cameras — particularly in high-crime areas in the outer boroughs. These cameras are technologically advanced and have analytic capabilities that are proven force multipliers — helping to deter criminal activity and aid in crime-solving efforts.

In addition, Bill de Blasio will bring together businesses, city agencies, and law enforcement to break down technical barriers and better integrate camera networks. De Blasio will push for the Safe Streets Security Camera Act to create a private security camera registry, which will aid law enforcement officials in solving crime.

Increase Shot Spotter

Only 20 percent of shots fired are reported to the police, and nearly 40 percent of victimizations involving a firearm go unreported to law enforcement. The number of unreported gun crime diminishes accountability and limits the ability of the police to catch perpetrators of gun violence. To address this, Bill de Blasio will invest in Shot Spotter technology — integrated audio and video gun sensors — for the 15 highest crime neighborhoods. Shot Spotter is proven to greatly expand the ability of law enforcement to respond to gun crime and has been adopted by police departments nationwide. With Shot Spotter, every shot is detected and linked to camera footage that is sent to dispatched police officers. This technology helps to deter gun violence and empowers responding officers with better information, improving safety and response to violent crime.

Investing in Our Youth

The hours between 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. are the most dangerous for our youth. Bill de Blasio is an uncompromising supporter of quality after-school programs that help keep kids off the streets and contribute to better school performance. Unfortunately, Mayor Bloomberg has repeatedly cut after-school programs, despite their value for public safety and academic excellence. This must change. That’s why Bill de Blasio has proposed a tax on the wealthiest New Yorkers to fund universal after-school programs. He will reverse Bloomberg’s divestment to ensure every young New Yorker has a safe place to go after school where they can expand and enrich their learning — while staying on the right path and out of trouble.

STRENGTHEN THE PROFESSION

Maintain Force Levels

One of the most important factors in New York’s crime decline has been the size of our police force. However, attrition and budget cuts have reduced the overall headcount from 40,000 uniformed staff members to approximately 34,000 today. This is the absolute floor in police department headcount, and any further reduction will undermine our hard-fought successes. Bill de Blasio will hold the line on NYPD headcount to ensure staffing levels never drop below 34,000. In addition, de Blasio will bring the roughly 500 police officers that are currently doing civilian duties back to patrol duty. This commonsense step will expand the number of officers patrolling our streets, and the Independent Budget Office estimates that civilianization will save the city $16.5 million.

Develop the Next Generation of NYPD Officers

New Yorkers should have a clear career pathway into the NYPD. As a strong believer that Career and Technical Education leads to high-wage, high-growth and high-skill professions, Bill de Blasio proposes the creation of an early college public safety high school that prepares young people for future professions in the NYPD. While there are programs within schools where students can learn about the field, Bill de Blasio is proposing a new, rigorous CTE program that would be a grade 9-14 high school that is linked with John Jay College for Criminal Justice and the NYPD. Graduating students would be able to accumulate enough college credits to either apply directly with the NYPD or continue to college to complete their degrees.

IMPROVE ACCESS TO JUSTICE

Expand Community Justice Centers

Bill de Blasio believes that crime reduction and public safety are not served by aggressively pursuing incarceration of nonviolent offenders — particularly when cases demand rehabilitative and holistic multi-agency responses. That’s why he is a strong supporter of Community Justice Centers. These collaborative problem-solving courts bring together multiple agencies to offer minor offenders smarter, better alternatives. New York’s five existing Community Justice Centers have provided a model for court systems nationwide and have clear, demonstrable successes in reducing recidivism and addressing criminal behavior. As mayor, Bill de Blasio will expand the number of Community Justice Centers across the city.

Expand Alternatives to Incarceration

Incarceration can be the most expensive and, in many cases, most counter-productive option in responding to crime. Criminal records have enormous social, emotional and economic costs, and are at times inconsistent with the nature of the offense.

Alternatives to incarceration provide sentencing options for people who would be better served by different solutions, including drug treatment, mental health care, or community sentencing restitution. When targeted carefully, they are proven to be effective in addressing the underlying causes of criminal behavior, but we need greater capacity to fully address the needs of our justice-involved population. Bill de Blasio is committed to supporting a robust ATI network in New York City, particularly for juvenile offenders.

Ease Path to Employment For the Formerly Incarcerated

Finding a job is one of the best ways to keep the formerly-incarcerated from returning to jail. However, too often, employers won’t even consider an applicant with a criminal record, regardless of the type of crime, how long ago it occurred, or whether or not it is job related. City policy requires the government to consider an applicant’s full range of skills and not dismiss a job candidate out-of-hand for a criminal record, increasing the chances that he or she can be found qualified for employment and avoid recidivism. Bill de Blasio supports legislation to extend this policy to private employers.

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