NYPD Commish O’Neill Touts Neighborhood Policing At Chamber Breakfast

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The ‘broken windows’ theory of policing is out and ‘neighborhood policing’ is in.

So said newly appointed Police Commissioner James O’Neill in his keynote address at the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce’s most recent edition of Brooklyn Newsmakers that took place at the Pfizer Auditorium at NYU Tandon School of Engineering yesterday.

Police Commissioner James O'Neill gives the keynote address.
Police Commissioner James O’Neill gives the keynote address.

“With this Neighborhood Policing model up in half the precincts, I think it’s going to make things better for the NYPD and more importantly it’s going to make the city safer,” said O’Neill. ”Just to make that first step, even if you see a police officer walking down the street, just to say hi. To them it makes a huge difference.”

The Neighborhood Policing Program, as cited on the NYPD website, is a plan by the NYPD to create stronger bonds between community members and police officers who patrol their streets. The goal is to get cops to work the same part of a precinct every shift so that they can get to know the members of the community and work together to create safer streets.

The program was launched this Fall as  part of a new model to rebuild trust in the NYPD police force and regain community involvement by making police officers active members of the communities they are serving and having them be a friendly, but familiar face in the neighborhood.

The ‘broken windows’ theory of policing held that if you bust individuals and get tough with so-called nuisance crimes such as hopping the subway or public lewdness, it will correspond to bringing down major felony crime. While some credit ‘broken window’ with reducing crime, it also upped stop-and-frisk stops, which inordinately affected young people of color, which resulted in both legal battles and a further breakdown in the relationship between police and the communities of color that they patrol.

“We have a common dream and a common goal and that is to live in peace, to take care of your family and to do our best. We are doing our best at the NYPD and we need to make sure that happens,” said O’Neill.

The 33-year-veteran also promised to work with the Brooklyn’s District Attorney’s office to better improve criminal prosecution rates and ensure that the worst criminals are not making it back to the streets:

Police Commissioner O'Neill, center, and City Councilman Chaim Deutsch pose with Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce members.
Police Commissioner O’Neill, center, and City Councilman Chaim Deutsch pose with Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce members.

“The Brooklyn DA’s office is outstanding and they are working with us to expedite cases. Eric [Gonzalez] is a good man, I have a good relationship with him, and we are moving forward. I think that’s why you’re seeing the level of violence go down so much. We have a gun violence suppression division set-up there also, and they work with the DA’s to make sure that when we do identify someone, and it’s a such small portion of the population that is involved in crimes and violent crimes in the city, that we concentrate our resources on them. And when we do have a case and we build a case, that they are prosecuted to the fullest extent,” said O’Neill.

While crime in the city is at a current all-time low, the Commissioner did state that “Hate Crimes are up 35% citywide year-to-date. There were 267 cases in 2015 and there are 361 cases so far in 2016. In addition, there has been a significant increase in arrests due to hate crimes from 132,000 in 2015 to 151,000 so far for 2016.”

O’Neill also pointed out the election of Donald Trump has added a little fuel to the hate crime fire, “with incidents increasing from 19 to 42 incidents” since the unexpected results in favor of the real estate mogul.

O’Neill is a Brooklyn native, who was born and raised in East Flatbush in a large Irish family. He started as a Transit Police Officer back in the early 1980’s before becoming Commanding Officer at the Central Park Police Station, then the 25th Precinct (East Harlem) and the 44th Precinct (South Bronx), then rising to Chief of Department in 2014 and now Commissioner, after the resignation of former Police Commissioner William Bratton.

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