The city’s self-inflicted wounds
- Last Updated: 12:07 AM, July 10, 2012
- Posted: 10:39 PM, July 9, 2012
We’re in the middle of another summer spike in violent crimes and shootings, with yet another small child — this time playing in a sprinkler — wounded. But this year’s spike is worse because it comes in the midst of an overall rise in crime — something we haven’t seen inrecent memory.
Unfortunately, the causes are self-inflicted. Thanks to actions taken by elected officials, we have fewer cops on the street and more criminals. The inevitable result should surprise no one.
In 2001, crime had been cut62 percent from 1990. That historic drop started thanks to the 1991 “Safe Streets, Safe City” initiative (thought up by my father, then City Council speaker, and passed with the help of Mayor David Dinkins), which increased the police force from about 31,000 to about 41,000 cops.
Later mayors and police commissioners used that force — the best-trained, most diverse in the world — wisely and aggressively to continue to bring crime down to unheard-of levels. These policies continue today under Mayor Bloomberg — despite a chorus of criticism, mostly from people who have no law-enforcement background at all.
What hasn’t continued is the level of cops needed to implement these policies. This administration has allowed our force to dwindle to under 35,000 — dangerously close to pre-“Safe Streets” days.
That’s not the only mistake. Back in the early 1970s, judges were releasing drug dealers from jail as fast as the police could round them up — “turnstile justice” was the new term. So the Legislature enacted tough laws (the “Rockefeller Drug Laws”) that largely took discretion away from judges and gave it to the prosecutors.
A 2003 reform eliminated the Rocky Laws’ (rarely imposed) excessive minimum sentences. But then a 2009 “reform” completely gutted these laws, taking discretion from prosecutors and giving it back to judges.
As I wrote in The Post that year, it was clear the consequences would be disastrous. The dealers themselves have termed this a “get-out-of-jail-free card.”Over halfof those who’ve been released back onto our streetsfor treatment thanks to this “reform” claimed to be victims of marijuana addiction.
The NYPD was successful for many years after 2001, despite a dwindling force, because it increased the use of aggressive and effective tactics like “stop and frisk” and innovations like CompStat as well as technology like the Real Time Crime Center — all of which the mayor and commissioner deserve much credit for.
But the department then became a victim of its own success — and the recession. With crime down, the administration apparently thought the NYPD didn’t need as many officers — so it shrank the force. Now, unless you live in Manhattan or in an “impact area,” you rarely if ever see a beat cop, or even a bike cop.
Mayor Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Ray Kelly need to continue to stand firm against calls for the elimination of stop and frisk — the one way to get the guns from the gang bangers before another child is killed. But we also need to immediately increase the force to 38,000 — the minimum the “Safe Streets” experts deemed necessary.
Those are actions the city can control. What we can’t control is the pendulum that almost always swings away from law enforcement when it is successful, and toward those who believe that the necessary hard work is no longer affordable or acceptable.
How many more innocent victims playing in sprinklers will have to be sacrificed at the altar of political correctness before the pendulum swings back?
Peter F. Vallone Jr. (D-Astoria) chairs the City Council’s Public Safety Committee.Follow @NYPostOpinion