All new Yorkers must be concerned with fighting crime, but it is the city government’s mandate to focus on keeping all New Yorkers and visitors safe. Developing community policing programs is a creative strategy whose time has come; in fact it’s a priority before summertime heats up. The most recent NYPD statistics show murders jumped 10 percent, with 109 people killed this year. Shootings rose 9 percent, to 351 from 323, and the number of shooting victims also rose 9 percent, to 404 from 371 last year. For the city’s workforce and residents, these statistics are alarming.
As President of Teamsters Local 237, I hear every day from our members, who are on the front lines providing services to the city, that the threat of violence is a daily concern for them, whether they are protecting schools, homeless shelters, hospitals, or helping to maintain the city’s vast public housing system. Our members, by the nature of their jobs, are everyday heroes, but their fears are no different than those of the average New Yorker.
Rather than get sidetracked with issues that do not directly impact the safety of New Yorkers, like whether to continue mayoral control of our schools, which I support, government needs to be vigilant and focused on ensuring that crime does not continue to rise and New Yorkers’ lives are not put at risk.
One proven solution that needs to be implemented to fight crime before it escalates further is community policing. This cooperative strategy promotes partnerships and problem-solving to address the immediate conditions that give rise to crime and social disorder. Community policing, recognizing that police rarely can solve public safety problems alone, encourages interactive partnerships with relevant stakeholders. The public should play a role in prioritizing and addressing public safety problems; we need to get the whole community involved in fighting crime and building relationships with the police.
Under a new community policing program, cops will be assigned exclusively to small neighborhood sectors and get time off from responding to 911 calls in upper Manhattan and Rockaway precincts. “There is…a huge advantage in a police officer being assigned to the same geographic location every day and getting to know the life of a neighborhood up close,” said Deputy Commissioner Susan Herman, who holds a newly created position dedicated to “collaborative policing.”
Recently, Local 237 members, who are school safety agents from the Brooklyn Community Outreach Division of the New York Police Department, and several high schools located in high-crime Brooklyn neighborhoods, collaborated on an anti-violence project that was a hit with the students. School safety agents conducted classes on resisting violence and drugs. The program, entitled “My School has Rhythm Not Violence,” also included a competition to create positive rap lyrics, songs or spoken-word performances. Students proudly presented their works in a final talent show on April 29 at Boys and Girls High School in Brooklyn, where they received awards for their best efforts. The greatest prize was raising awareness that creativity, not crime, pays off with self-esteem.
These are the kinds of concrete initiatives we must focus on to fight crime immediately. A long, hot summer is approaching. Let’s make sure we do everything we can to make it a safe one. We don’t need more rhetoric from politicians and agitators about issues that are inconsequential and seek to divide us. We need the police and community working together to keep crime down.