January 9, 2003

NYPD to 'Blitz' High Crime Areas

By Graham Rayman and Melanie Lefkowitz Staff Writers

Shouldering aside the possibility of police layoffs, Police Commissioner Ray Kelly and Mayor Michael Bloomberg used the gritty muster room at Brooklyn’s 77th Precinct Thursday to announce a new anti-crime initiative.

The initiative, dubbed “Operation Impact” and begun a week ago today, deploys 800 officers, working on overtime, to 61 neighborhood sections, public housing facilities and subway stations. At the end of the month, police recruits fresh from the academy will fill those slots on a staggered basis.

Calling it an “all-out blitz on crime,” Kelly said the initial period of the initiative will be funded with $8 million to $10 million — funds that had been allocated for Operation Condor, the narcotics crackdown begun in the Giuliani administration.

For 2004, $40 million in overtime had been earmarked for Condor and $20 million for other narcotics operations.

The targeted anti-crime effort comes as Kelly faces a Bloomberg-imposed Monday deadline to find ways to cut another 3 percent, or $93.4 million, from the Police Department’s $3-billion budget.

“We will have to find ways to do more with less, and the last year has shown that the men and women of the NYPD are able to do more with less,” Bloomberg said. “We will have to find ways throughout city government to do that.”

Wednesday, Kelly said that it would be “very difficult” to make the additional 3-percent cut without laying off police officers from the 37,800-person force.

Thursday, however, he would not characterize how he would make the cut. “We haven’t made any determination,” he said.

But he is clearly hopeful that federal money will be available from the Homeland Security Act. “As far as federal money goes, we’d like to get some,” he said.

Patrick Lynch, president of the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, said the police budget should be untouchable.

“The city should never be talking about cutting the budget of the Police Department,” he said. “They should be looking elsewhere.”

Even if the city does not get federal money, observers have proposed numerous other ways to cut the Police Department budget without layoffs, such as requiring officers assigned to events to work straight time instead of overtime or reducing the bureaucracy at police headquarters.

Harvey Robins, a former director of operations in the Dinkins administration, said that Kelly, before even considering layoffs, should trim spending by replacing officers in some non-policing positions with civilians, reducing the number of desk jobs, and controlling overtime spending — more than $200 million a year for the past two years, not including World Trade Center-related work.

“It seems to me that those are three very clear cost reductions you can make before you go to the mayor and say, ‘We’ve now cut as much as we can,’ ” he said.

The mayor, who has vowed never to return the city to its “bad old days,” previously has shown leniency to the Police Department, softening a directive to cut 7.5 percent from the budget to a 5.7-percent reduction in the November plan. The additional 3 percent cut is half of what Bloomberg has asked for from the bulk of other city agencies.