New York City’s former Police Commissioner Bill Bratton said that four years ago was the city’s "safest year," before New York's politicians "created" the current crime wave.
"2018 was New York’s safest year. Fewer than 100,000 serious crimes, 300 murders. The next year Albany’s criminal justice reform screwed it up. Today’s crime wave is blamed on New York politicians. They created it," Bratton said in a New York Post opinion piece published Sunday evening.
Bratton, who has twice served as the city’s police commissioner, singled out Manhattan’s district attorney, Alvin Bragg, for not putting criminals behind bars. New York lawmakers passed sweeping changes to the state's bail laws in 2019 that restricted crimes where judges can set bail, which many local leaders have partially blamed for the recent uptick in crimes.
"And Manhattan’s DA doesn’t want to put criminals in jail. He’s risking the rest of the population by giving them chances. Sorry, you’re caught with a gun committing a crime? You should go to jail!"
"For small shops, steel gates are coming back. Empty storefronts have homeless living in doorways. Legislative action is such that you can shoplift over and over. And the DA won’t prosecute. Steal under a certain amount, and you won’t get arrested. There’s no punishment for crimes," he added.
New York City has been rocked by skyrocketing crimes in recent years. In 2018, New York City notched its lowest crime rates in the modern era, with 1,207 fewer crime incidents across the board compared to 2017, according to the NYPD. Shootings were down more than 4% compared to 2017, burglaries down nearly 4%, robberies down 7.7%, while murders fell below 300 for the second consecutive year.
But by 2020, when the pandemic’s lockdowns upended society in unprecedented ways and protests and riots raged across the country following the death of George Floyd, violent crimes such as murders and shootings spiked.
Shootings jumped 97% that year compared to 2019, recording 1,531 shootings in 2020, according to the NYPD’s year-end crime data. Murders increased by 44% compared to 2019 data, with the NYPD reporting 462 murders in 2020 compared to 319 in 2019.
2020 was a bloody year across the country, with the FBI reporting murders spiked by nearly 30% compared to 2019. It marked the largest single-year increase in killings since the agency began tracking the crimes.
The crime trend has continued two years later, with New York City recording increases in nearly every major crime category in 2021 compared to 2020. Felony assaults jumped by 9.8% compared to 2020, car thefts jumped by 15%, robberies were up 5.1% and murders jumped by 4%.
Six months into 2022, New York City has recorded a 25.8% jump in violent crimes as of mid-June compared to the same time in 2021. Rapes are up roughly 15% in the city this year compared to last, while robberies are up 39.7% and felony assaults are up 19.6%.
However, homicides in the city have fallen this year compared to the same time period in 2021 by about 13%.
Bratton was quoted in the New York Post piece advising that police officers in the city need more training, and the department overall needs more cops.
"Officers need training. It’s like not wanting a doctor to give too much chemo or radiation. You want just the right amount to cure you. Same in terms of our risk. You don’t make the patient sicker — just what’s correct. Stop-and-frisk, a great tool, can be moderated. Done away with — but it’s an essential tool. You can’t police without it. The challenge is to do it constitutionally. Within the law. Moderated up and down depending on the crime, but it must be here to stay. When I ran the department in the early ’90s we had even more crime."
"For all New York’s issues now, the police department is not large enough. Cops have a hard time protecting themselves for fear of being sued and maybe wrongful arrest. It’s a mess," he said.
Additionally, amid the rising crime over the last few years, combined with the pandemic and support for the defund the police movement, the NYPD saw an exodus of cops as resignations and retirements began piling up, and fewer people tried to join the force.
"As for recruiting officers, part of the problem was that during COVID the police academy stopped giving tests and the recruiting process," Bratton said. "The pool reduced dramatically from our normal 30,000. They’re now in a yearlong process of formulating new exams, so temporarily the department’s down about 1,200 officers."
"That’ll change," he added.