January 10, 2003

Police Presence To Swell at ‘Hot Spots’

Bloomberg, Kelly Unveil Big Redeployment

By William Mauldin

Mayor Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Ray Kelly yesterday announced a massive redeployment of police resources to quell high-crime “hot-spots,” even as the police force continues to shrink.

Under the two-phase plan, dubbed “operation impact,” the Police Department has assigned 800 police officers to work overtime in 61 high-crime areas, until the police academy class graduates at the end of the month.

In the second phase, two-thirds of the 2,100 cadets expected to graduate from the academy will be assigned immediately to the high-crime areas, replacing the officers who were working overtime.

Yesterday’s announcement came just one day after Mr. Kelly warned that the department could end up laying off police officers as a way of slicing an additional $93.4 million from the $3.4 billion budget for fiscal year 2004, which begins in July.

On Monday the department will submit a plan to the Office of Management and Budget outlining the additional cuts, Mr. Kelly said.

“If there’s any part of city government that shows that just because you cut the budget, you don’t have to cut the services, it is the NYPD,” Mr. Bloomberg told reporters at the 77th Precinct stationhouse of Euclid Avenue in Crown Heights section of Brooklyn.

Council Member James Davis, who represents Crown Heights, hailed the plan as an equitable way to reduce crime in dangerous areas throughout the city, not just in the places frequented by tourists in Manhattan.

“The mayor and the police commissioner are demonstrating with this initiative that no one is left behind,” said Mr. Davis, adding that his only concern was that “aggressive police action” in certain neighborhoods might generate more civilian complaints.

A former instructor at the police academy, Mr. Davis said recent graduates of the police academy – known as probationary officers were perfectly capable of handling the increased pressure of “hot spots” in patrol areas, subways, and housing projects.

“If they send them out with veteran police officers or experienced police officers, they’ll be just fine,” he said.

Once probationary officers take the place of veteran officers working overtime at high-crime zones, Mr. Davis said, the city will begin to save money immediately, because rookie officers work for significantly less pay.

But Council Member Peter Vallone Jr., chairman of the committee on public safety, said the decision to funnel two-thirds of the police academy graduates to high-crime areas could end up hurting the police precincts with no targeted “hot-spots,” such as the precinct he represents in Queens.

“My local precinct, the 114th, has over 10% fewer officers than it did a year ago,” Mr. Vallone said. “If a program like this means we won’t be recouping any of those officers that we’ve lost, then that’s unacceptable.”

“New initiatives are fine, as long as you have the personnel to implement them,” he said, adding that he doesn’t believe the city can maintain its “downward trend in crime” if the police force is reduced further.

The police union expressed dismay at the idea of further cuts to the police department.

The president of the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, Patrick J. Lynch, said reassigning officers to high-crime areas would mean “quelling a hot spot here but creating tomorrow’s hot spot back in that original neighborhood.”

The union leader warned of a return to “the crime-ridden days of the 1970’s” and the practice of responding to 911 calls instead of preventing crime.

Mr. Lynch said the new probationary officers might not be prepared for all the scenarios they could face in high-crime areas.

“It endangers the police officer, because that police officer does not have the experience,” Mr. Lynch said. “It takes precious moments while the inexperienced officer calls for extra help.”