By John C. Liu
In the face of growing criticism of the NYPD’s “Stop and Frisk” operation, Mayor Bloomberg has taken a “my way or the highway” position. Without Stop and Frisk, he says, there is no effective way to reduce crime in inner-city neighborhoods.
As we prepare for the 30th National Night Out Against Crime on August 6, an event that enlists community support in making our streets safer, we want to tell the Mayor that he’s wrong. Other cities have developed strategies that have been as effective as Stop and Frisk without alienating the very communities they were created to protect.
One proven alternative, already being used in at least 50 jurisdictions, is known as “Pulling Levers Policing.” This method targets the small number of individuals known to have committed most of the violent crimes in a given minority neighborhood, not just any young black or Latino who happens to walk by.
This approach has been credited for a dramatic decline in Boston’s murder rate while at the same time building community trust in the police. Without trust and collaboration, especially in the poorest neighborhoods, even the best police officers find it difficult to prevent crime and promote public safety.
In Pulling Levers Policing, an interagency task force is formed that includes police, probation, parole, state, and sometimes even federal enforcement agencies. Repeat offenders, especially those on probation or parole, know that they are being closely watched.
The logic behind this approach is clear. Only a small portion of any community’s population is regularly associated with violent crime. Most important, this strategy works, according to data collected on these projects during the last decade. In Chicago, where this tactic was employed in its Project Safe Neighborhoods, there was a 37 percent reduction in homicides in targeted districts and a significant reduction in gun violence.
In Cincinnati, the Initiative to Reduce Violence resulted in a 41 percent reduction in gang-related homicides sustained 3.5 years after the program was launched.
Using a similar tactic, Los Angeles and Stockton, Calif., among other cities, have reported similar results.
In response to drug crimes, High Point, N.C., experienced success with its “Drug Market Intervention” strategy, which was designed to close neighborhood drug markets permanently. The approach brings together drug dealers, their families, law enforcement, service providers, and community leaders to make clear that the drug market in a designated neighborhood is now closed. The message is that the community cares for the offenders, but rejects their conduct.
None of these and other approaches to the problem of violent crime are a miracle cure. Neither is Stop and Frisk. But these alternatives are far more likely to foster a healthy relationship between the police and the communities they serve.
As the City Comptroller, I have the greatest respect for the men and women of the NYPD who risk their lives on a daily basis to keep our City safe. But as a parent, I would be outraged if I learned that my son had been thrown against a wall and frisked for no other reason than his age and the color of his skin.
There has to be a better way to reduce crime, and there is.
John C. Liu is the New York City Comptroller