OneNYC 2050 : Volume 4 of 9 : Thriving Neighborhoods

Advance shared responsibility for community safety and promote neighborhood policing

New York is safer than it has been in decades. Crime is down, and the number of people in jail is significantly declining, proving that we can live more safely with fewer incarcerated. However, there is a fundamental inequality in the uneven distribution of who is safe and where it is safe across the boroughs. Increasing safety while addressing inequality requires a paradigm shift from safety enforced by the justice system to safety built by neighborhoods. The evidence from the past few years is beginning to show the power of building safety from the neighborhood up. And the New York Police Department is making transformative changes to make the city safer through deeper connections with the people they serve. Neighborhood Policing was launched to improve collaboration between community residents and police officers, with officers working in the same neighborhoods during the same shifts, increasing their familiarity with the local community and local issues.

Public safety depends on strong resident involvement and the availability of quality public spaces. Rates of violence are lower in urban neighborhoods with high collective efficacy. The deterioration and poor appearance of public spaces sends a message to communities that they are not valued by the government. To promote safety and fairness, the City is committed to increasing interaction among residents by creating spaces for community, through inter-agency collaboration, events and informal gatherings. Additionally, the City is committed to more proactively addressing neighborhood quality of life conditions in terms of cleanliness and safety.

Create Design Solutions For Public Safety Through Neighborhood Activation

The City’s 2018 Neighborhood Activation Study includes design recommendations such as enhanced lighting, public art, and community programming, in addition to infrastructure solutions, to help transform local precincts and public properties into transparent and inviting spaces that support productive encounters between police officers and residents — and provide access to economic, employment, and recreational opportunities for residents. These recommendations are incorporated into multi-step plans for investment in specific sites in the Brownsville and Morrisania neighborhoods, including lighting and cultural programming to activate neighborhood hot spots. Going forward, the City will continue to seek and lead partnerships with other City agencies to catalyze community transformation using these guiding principles.

Have events and activities that allow the public and police officers to engage with each other to promote respect, understanding, and trust.
-Resident of Foxhurst, Bronx
Involve Residents In Crime Prevention Using Environmental Design

Through the Mayor’s Action Plan for Neighborhood Safety (MAP), the City has trained NYCHA residents in the 15 MAP developments in Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design. Trainees learn how to develop effective solutions to address unsafe conditions related to physical spaces in their developments. Each team is granted access to up to $50,000 to fund plans that propose either physical improvements or social programming projects that increase opportunities for positive engagement within the community. These include revitalizing underutilized green spaces, promoting increased stewardship of public spaces, and community-led public art projects.

Reimagining Rikers Island

In March 2017, Mayor de Blasio announced a commitment to close Rikers Island within 10 years, and thereby end a grim chapter of New York City history. Closing Rikers requires further reductions in the jail population and a network of smaller, safer jails located close to courthouses, families, and service providers. Both efforts are on track: the City’s jail population is at its lowest level in recent history and declining, and the borough-based jail plan is undergoing public review with a final vote expected by the end of the year.

The closure of Rikers Island by 2027 will be a major step in reforming our criminal justice system. It also presents the City with a rare opportunity to repurpose an island of more than 400 acres. Rikers is approximately twice the size of Governors Island and could house a range of uses for which there is little space in a densely packed city such as New York, freeing up space for community uses in more centrally located neighborhoods. There are some limitations: The island’s proximity to LaGuardia Airport comes with height restrictions and noise, and there is limited transit and car access. Still, the island has tremendous potential to serve New Yorkers and help achieve our goals for a fair city.

As we think about the future of Rikers, it is essential that new uses create broad public benefits; help our city meet urgent goals such as climate justice, economic equity, and fairness; help redress past harm to justice-impacted communities; and, where possible, improve waterfront access in this underinvested portion of our coastline. We must also ensure that all voices are heard and considered, including the many New Yorkers impacted by the criminal justice system. To begin the planning process, the City will launch a participatory planning effort through which New Yorkers will help formulate a vision for the island. This process will formalize guiding principles and priorities for island reuse and study the viability of potential future uses. This will be the first step in a broader master planning process.

The City’s priority is to close Rikers Island as soon as possible and create a safe, fair, and humane justice system. As those plans advance, imagining a new future for Rikers Island provides a chance to help shape a fairer future and provide new opportunity for New Yorkers.

Aerial photograph of Rikers Island in NYC.

Improve Neighborhood Cleanliness And Safety

The City is preparing a targeted strategy to ensure neighborhood public spaces are clean, safe, and enjoyable. Based on an analysis of New York City residents of survey data collected by the Citizens Budget Commission, mobility, cleanliness, and safety stand out as the most significant drivers of quality of life in the public realm. In fact, overall neighborhood approval rates are 47 percent higher in areas that are considered cleaner and safer, when controlling for other factors. The City has created a multi-agency task force to develop programs that address quality-of-life issues in the 25 highest-need neighborhoods, and will conduct additional analysis going forward to inform these effort.

The Safest, Fairest Big City In America

Protecting New Yorkers, Rebuilding The Relationship Between Police And Community

Five years ago, we charted a course toward an even safer New York City. The core of the plan was, and continues to be, the Neighborhood Policing philosophy — a complete overhaul of the New York Police Department (NYPD) crime-fighting model that puts officers in closer connection with people all across the city. As a result, overall crime, murders, robberies, and burglaries are substantially down from their levels five years ago. Simultaneously, arrests are down 37.3 percent, criminal summonses are down 69.9 percent, and stops are down more than 90 percent. A number of actions contributed to this success.

Bringing Police And Communities Together With Neighborhood Policing
  • Investing in the Neighborhood Policing Model
    Neighborhood policing assigns consistent officers to neighborhoods, giving these officers the time and resources to better understand the concerns of residents and work in partnership to solve neighborhood problems. It gives New Yorkers better access to the officers charged with serving them, while improving and enhancing NYPD’s crime fighting and public safety capabilities. Investigations are more focused, with patrol officers playing an expanded role in gathering evidence and intelligence through their connections with the neighborhood.To implement this new model of policing, the City assigned 2,000 additional officers in New York City neighborhoods — 1,200 new hires and 800 civilian posts — which freed officers for enforcement work. Every neighborhood in New York City now benefits from this investment.
  • Ending the Era of Stop-and-Frisk Abuse
    We ended the City’s defense of its divisive and counterproductive stop-and-frisk practices, and signed an agreement committing to work with a monitor appointed by the U.S. Department of Justice to fix the NYPD’s use of stop-and-frisk . The City also commenced a joint process with community stakeholders to ensure people affected by stop-and-frisk, particularly communities of color, play an active role in shaping reform. Since these changes, stop-and-frisk has declined by more than 90 percent.
  • Reducing Cannabis Possession Arrests
    The City changed police practices to prevent arrest of individuals in possession of small amounts of cannabis and of most people smoking cannabis in public, resulting in 21,759 fewer arrests in 2018 compared with 2013. Working with the City Council, the City also implemented civil alternatives to criminal sanctions for violations of open containers and alcohol in public, diverting thousands of individuals from the criminal justice system.   

Since 2013, stop-and-frisks have declined by 95%.

Investing In Officer Safety And Precision Policing

  • Investing in Smarter Policing
    Working with the Manhattan District Attorney’s office, the City gave every officer a smartphone and equipped more than 2,000 vehicles with tablets. Community members can call their community officers with tips and concerns, and officers can use the phones and tablets to resolve issues or offer assistance without having to make an arrest or take someone to a precinct.
  • Protecting Officers
    The City invested in replacing bulletproof vests for every police officer. We also outfitted all NYPD vehicles used by uniformed personnel with ballistic protection. With officers facing the risks of responding to active shooters and terrorism, we made further investments to place helmets and ballistic armor at the disposal of every patrol officer. 
  • Providing Body-Worn Cameras for Every Officer on Patrol
    As part of the agreement that ended stop-and-frisk, the City committed to equip NYPD officers with body cameras. All uniformed NYPD patrol officers, in neighborhoods, public housing developments, and the transit system, have been equipped with body cameras. By the end of 2019, New York City’s body-worn camera program will be the largest deployment in the world.
  • Modernizing officer training
    The NYPD fundamentally changed the way it trains new officers and how it continues to train officers throughout their careers. Under the new training model, recruits in the Academy receive a field-training component, and spend six months training with dedicated field-training officers. These field-training officers help new cops develop the fundamental skills that are essential to modern policing, including working with communities. The department also added an annual requirement of continuing training for veteran officers covering ethics, de-escalation, and tactical retraining.

Image of police officer reading to a classroom in NYC.

Reducing Violent Crime
  • Deploying Technology to Detect and Fight Gun Violence
    We introduced ShotSpotter in every borough — a gunshot detection system that uses sound to locate gunfire nearly instantaneously, allowing officers to quickly respond to shootings.
  • Combating Gun Violence
    Working with the City Council, we created a Mayor’s Office to Prevent Gun Violence. Housed within the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice, the new office oversees an expansion of effective, innovative violence intervention strategies. The office funds and oversees violence interrupters — teams of credible messengers who use the Cure Violence model to mediate conflicts on the street and connect high-risk individuals to services that can reduce the long-term risk of violence. Since the program began in 2013, this work and other investments contributed to a decrease in shootings in the 17 highest-violence precincts.
  • Focusing Law Enforcement on Those Responsible for Gun Violence
    The Mayor’s Office partnered with the NYPD, the U.S. Attorneys, the New York State Attorney General, and the City’s district attorneys to develop a comprehensive plan to strengthen and speed investigations and prosecutions of gun crimes. The centerpiece of the plan is a new 200-officer Gun Violence Suppression Division to target those who carry illegal guns and traffic firearms in the city more effectively. The new division is focused on investigations of illegal firearm possessions, shootings, and gang activity. The division also houses enforcement efforts related to illegal gun sales. An extensive database aggregates forensic evidence and helps police track trends, identify offenders, and conduct long-term investigations in the 17 precincts with the highest concentrations of gun violence.
  • Ensuring Shooters Stay Off the Streets
    Our “Project Fast Track” initiative, announced in partnership with State and federal prosecutors, law enforcement agencies, and the State court system, assigns dedicated courts, judges, and prosecutors to focus on the swift and effective prosecution of gun crimes. As part of the initiative, the City also invested resources to improve the collection of forensic evidence, such as DNA, in cases involving illegal guns.
  • Protecting the City from Terrorism
    To prepare and respond to threats facing the city, we invested in the NYPD Critical Response Command. This group of more than 500 specially trained and equipped officers ensures the City’s ability to swiftly and decisively respond to active shooter and other terrorist threats against the city.
Major crime has declined significantly since the 1990s, as the average daily jail population has also decreased, demonstrating we can be a safe city with fewer people incarcerated.

Source: MOCJ

Bar graph displaying crime rate and average jail population.