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Thread: Crime in New York City

  1. #46


    August 8, 2004


    Policing a City Where Streets Are Less Mean


    The Officers of the Fifth
    Audio interviews and photos of those featured in this story.

    The little fish are dried and laid out flat and look more like bookmarks than creatures that once swam in water, just another in a galaxy of species on the sidewalks of Chinatown that the police lieutenant - a neighborhood girl back when the girls were all Parisis and Ciprianos and Russos - cannot identify by name or purpose.

    "Who's in charge here?" she bellows, deep-voiced, into the store. Curious passers-by join the crowd on the corner of Mott and Grand Streets. She couldn't care less if the fish are dead or still flapping or an endangered species or made of uranium: they are stacked on the sidewalk without a permit, and this store has been warned before.

    "You don't want to listen?" the lieutenant, Carolyn Fanale, hollers at a man inside. "This is what happens." She sweeps her hand through the air toward the rows of fish and bark and mushrooms hard as stones. "Gone!" She calls over her radio for more officers and a van to cart the stuff off. An old lady pauses near a box. "Touch anything, you'll be arrested for obstruction," Lieutenant Fanale warns. The lady takes off.

    Most striking about this scene is not that such friction exists between city and shopkeeper over sidewalk space, or that language and cultural barriers remain so impenetrable between the police and the policed in 21st-century Manhattan, or that a sizable chunk of a store's inventory can be seized so swiftly.

    Look at the police officer, or more precisely, her rank. Ten years ago, a lieutenant would have been scoffed at or reprimanded for going door to door on Mott Street in search of unlicensed produce vendors, knockoff purses and kebab carts parked too close to the curb: "Don't you have something better to do? Shouldn't you be out catching bad guys?''

    But this is the job in one Manhattan precinct, 10 years after crime in the city began its precipitous drop. All but gone are the chalk outlines, the cooling bodies draped in plastic. The command to "move along, folks, nothing to see here" has taken on a new meaning: there truly is nothing to see. Instead, police officers pursue a variety of tasks that just a decade ago, when 2,000 New Yorkers were killed each year, would have seemed unimaginably minor. The drop in crime has reshaped the face of policing in ways small and large, obvious and surprising.

    At the heart of the changes is Compstat, a means of statistically analyzing where and when crimes are occurring, a new philosophy that transformed crime-fighting in 1994 and is, today, as deeply embedded in the identity of the Police Department as its badges. Compstat is the boss who never goes home, never takes a day off. Compstat decides when officers sleep. A little spike in a precinct's numbers sends squads of officers to the night shift.

    "Compstat's like religion," Lieutenant Fanale says. "It's a really, really good idea, like religion. But you get people involved, and it gets all screwed up."

    To spend months with the men and women of the Fifth Precinct is to see how Compstat and the changes it has wrought have altered the lives of those who protect the city. But it is also to see something more: How even amid this radical reshaping, the world of the policeman and the policewoman remains uniquely insular, a family of eccentrics and characters moving through the corridors of an ancient building and the crowded, narrow streets surrounding it.

    There is affection and teasing, celebration and disappointment, resentment and frustration. Personal lives are open and exposed. Here is Lieutenant Fanale's dream of a new baby; an officer's wait for a promotion; a rookie's first assignment, all unfolding in a fast-moving montage of crowds and tourists in the roiling heart of downtown Manhattan.

    The Station House

    The Fifth Precinct: Houston Street down to the Brooklyn Bridge, from Broadway over past the Bowery, to Allen. Chinatown, the courthouses, Little Italy, slivers of SoHo and the Lower East Side. When the station house, the city's oldest, was built on Elizabeth Street, in 1881, it was just a block or so north of the teeming Five Points, a motley intersection of streets that spread out like Bill the Butcher's fingers in the 2002 film "Gangs of New York." In the movie, to convey the menace of the place, he clamped that open hand into a tight fist.

    Today, that hand would be getting a manicure on Spring Street, or offering menus to passing tourists on Mulberry, or clipping the velvet rope back in place behind long legs scooting on Manolo Blahniks into the nightclub Blvd for a glimpse of the guy who won "The Apprentice."

    The precinct is home to 57,199 people and is roughly 66 percent Asian, according to the 2000 census, up almost 11 percent from 1990, and 16 percent white, down almost 9 percent. Chinatown versus Little Italy, Chinatown winning.

    Chinatown: an island within an island, where blocks stretch without a word of English heard or seen. Like the Italians before them, its population has a historical wariness of the authorities here, and residents, especially the elderly, are notorious for not reporting crimes, the police officers say.

    The week's crime log reads like the police blotter in a country newspaper: "States she was having drinks at the bar with her purse at her feet. She reached for it to get her sweater and noticed it was gone." Officer feels something bounce off his chest and observes marijuana cigarette, tossed from window of vehicle stuck in traffic. Teenage boys steal Yu-Gi-Oh! cards - Pokémon-type prints of cartoon characters that are worth some money - from Asian children.

    To be sure, there are many precincts with more crimes, and several with even fewer; and the Fifth Precinct has enjoyed the same wave of prosperity that has changed the city as much as any crime-fighting tool. But the Fifth is more typical than not.

    Like the officers in all precincts, those in the Fifth are constantly reminded to watch out for suspicious behavior in the post-9/11 world. Since the terror alert last week, officers from other precincts have been called to Canal Street, a Lower Manhattan traffic artery. An officer is always posted at the Brooklyn Bridge, although that post is kept far busier by people trying to jump off than by those trying to knock it down.

    Inside, the station house has changed remarkably little. They used to keep the corpses in a white-tiled room in the back. Now the room holds office supplies. The men and women who arrive in handcuffs face the duty officer across a tall wooden desk older than their grandparents. Beneath their shuffling feet, the floor creaks.

    There are a handful of computers on the first floor. Some even work. "Do not use computer," warns a sticky note on one. "Has a virus." When someone discovered that one officer had a personal Web page, his photograph was printed dozens of times on adhesive paper and stuck all over the station house, and then all over the precinct, on stop signs, on deli walls.

    Two captains, 7 lieutenants, 19 sergeants, 6 detectives, and 123 officers, about one in five of them a woman. There are three shifts: days, evenings and midnights. Within those shifts, more shifts. The officers on the peddler squad know the labyrinth of codes determining who can sell what, where. The "midnight conditions," or cabaret officers, spend most of their energies answering the inevitable noise complaints of a city that sleeps on top of its bars and restaurants.

    Anticrime officers wear baggy Starter jerseys that hang low over the guns and radios. They patrol in a police car disguised as a taxicab, complete with the number and light on top. It does not pass close scrutiny - two white guys, both riding up front? - but people still flag it.

    No one will admit to a quota, but everyone is expected to make one arrest per quarter, four a year.

    Years ago, somebody moved the door to the precinct commander's office on the first floor a few feet to the right, creating a little alcove, to eliminate the clear shot of a potential assassin. Inside the room, before a working gas fireplace and a framed law degree, is Capt. William Matusiak.

    The Boss

    Violent crime in the precinct has dropped 70 percent since 1993, the first year recorded by the Compstat system. It is Captain Matusiak's job to keep that number down, and make it even lower. He is the precinct's 23rd commanding officer since 1969, when its official liaison to the Asian community, Shuck Seid, 78, began keeping track.

    Across from Captain Matusiak's desk is the wipe-off board of the week's crimes, a more important view of the precinct than a picture window twice its size: assault, robbery, grand larceny, auto theft, burglary, rape and murder. The last two are less frequent than parades. This year's only killing so far was on Jan. 17. Xiang Ving Jiang was shot to death on East Broadway. At this time in 1994, there were nine.

    The captain, 41, has a reserved parking spot out front and lives 52 miles away, in northern Westchester. Sometimes he sacks out in a little bed in the office. He puffs a cigar and looks at a little spike of seven grand larcenies, defined as thefts of goods worth more than $1,000. "No good," he says. "No good." For a break, he stands on the station's front steps, watching police officers come and go.

    He was No. 2, the executive officer, in the Sixth Precinct in the West Village and in the Ninth Precinct in the East Village. This is his first precinct command, a position seen as a rung for up-and-comers, keeping the shine on a little facet of the crown jewel of the New York City Police Department's boroughs: Manhattan South.

    He drives through the precinct. A homeless man is slouched on the sidewalk. "Look at this guy," the captain says, and flags down an officer on a scooter. "Do me a favor. Move that guy, the bag guy," he says.

    "We move him, and he just comes back someplace else," the uniform replies.

    Captain Matusiak drives off, only to see another derelict man pushing several carts up the Bowery. "Look at this guy."

    He thinks about what it must have been like to be the commanding officer of the precinct when he became a beat officer 20 years ago: "It would have been a much nicer job. They worried about crime, but they didn't worry about crime like I worry about crime. They worried about summonses, corruption. They weren't so focused on reducing crime. That's something Compstat did. I mean, don't get me wrong. It's a good thing, but it's an odd thing."

    "I was on vacation last week. I was on the phone for hours, worrying about every complaint report," he says. "I guess I'm still going through that insecurity. Am I worthy? Am I doing enough?"

    Sometimes, he has to put a man somewhere, like one night in April, when he sent Nicky Lau to the Café Habana on Prince Street. The bartender handed a Corona to Mr. Lau, who set it on the bar without taking a sip and stepped outside. Mr. Lau, a police cadet in a precinct in Queens, is 18.

    An unmarked sedan pulled up, and Lieutenant Fanale called the bartender outside to issue a summons.

    Under-age-drinking operations are not unusual in a precinct stacked with bars, nightclubs and dives. But in this instance, Captain Matusiak was not particularly worried about teenagers drinking at Habana. He wanted the owner's full attention.

    Here is the problem: The cafe gets crowded. Women hang purses on the backs of their chairs. In the cramped space, the purses are stolen. The women file police reports. The thefts are automatic grand larcenies whenever credit cards are taken. The grand larcenies are recorded in the week's Compstat tally, and if that list is too long, the precinct commander is called to 1 Police Plaza for a grilling and a scolding. Too many scoldings, and a precinct commander finds himself assigned someplace else.

    A few days after Mr. Lau ordered his beer, the cafe's owner showed up at the station house and sat across the desk from Captain Matusiak. The owner was worried; the captain consoled him.

    "Last night was, I'm sure, a one-shot deal," Captain Matusiak said before getting to the point: "You've got to help us out with the unattended property. We're getting killed at your place."

    There has not been a purse reported stolen since.

    Once a month, people who live or work in the precinct are invited to the station house to speak up about their problems or concerns. At the April community meeting, for example, a woman raised her hand toward the end with a complaint. An ice cream truck passed - and often stopped - in front of her apartment building every day, playing its song at high volume. She had written down the truck's license plate number.

    Before Captain Matusiak could answer, a second woman raised her hand and said that as a matter of fact, she had the same problem, and had also written down the license number, but it was a different truck.

    A uniformed officer stepped forward and said: "I took care of him today. You won't have a problem with him anymore. You have a problem, you call me personally. I'll take care of it."

    Afterward, disbelief spread quickly among the officers. "Crime's been down," said Sgt. Sean Looney, a community affairs officer, "but the other complaints haven't gone anywhere. It used to be, 'Hey, there's guys with guns going to shoot them off,' and now it's Mister Softee playing his music."

    Ten years ago, someone complaining about ice cream trucks would have been laughed out of the room. Ten years ago, an officer who promised to take care of it would have been marked for life, still hearing about it at his retirement party: Hey, Officer Ice Cream.

    Police officers sat around after the meeting. Maytag repairmen in bulletproof vests.

    One asked, "What's the world coming to?"

    And another answered, "We've got to bring crime back."

    The Floor Manager

    If Captain Matusiak is like the C.E.O. of a small business, then his floor manager is Lieutenant Fanale, with three years in the precinct, and a lifetime. She was just months old when she was whisked home to Elizabeth Street 40 years ago after she was adopted in what she calls, proudly, a "borderline black-marketish" exchange of healthy baby and dead presidents in the Bronx. Her grandparents sold fruit from carts in this neighborhood.

    "What surprises me is that the city has prospered so much that it's not the violent crimes that are happening in excess," she says.

    Lieutenant Fanale is a lesbian, and she likes provoking the red-cheeked Irish rookies who arrive in the spring. Out of earshot of the other officers, she says: "I'm so out in this job. That's the greatest part of this job. I'm free to be me, and that makes me a better person, a better boss."

    Her personal life has never been more on display than right now: Everyone in the precinct knows that Lieutenant Fanale is trying to become a mother.

    In March, she began her latest round of hormone therapy to stimulate egg production, so that some eggs may be extracted, impregnated with sperm from a bank in California, and placed into her uterus. The last time, the embryos did not survive. Before that, six attempts at artificial insemination failed.

    The lieutenant's latest on-the-job headache is an older woman who lives on Grand and Mott Streets, her window looking down on a congested corner. She regularly calls and writes to complain about the street peddlers selling compact discs or jewelry or fruit or soup without permits - so many that some sidewalks are practically impassable - and claims that the Fifth Precinct looks the other way.

    "I'm not going to arrest an 80-year-old woman for selling bras on Mott Street," Lieutenant Fanale says. "I'm not going to be the next one on the cover of The Daily News, writing a summons for sitting on a milk crate." She explained this to the woman. "You know what she said to me? 'I'll support you.' "

    Minutes later, the lieutenant is rampaging down Mott Street, shouting over an open cardboard box of frozen fish for sale on the sidewalk without a permit. "You don't speak English?" she shouts at the proprietor. "O.K., then I'll stop talking." She lifts the heavy box of ice and seafood and hurls it into the store. Sales girls jump. "Do you understand what 'inside' means now?"

    Were her grandparents selling their fruit today, she would have to chase them off.

    Late one night, Lieutenant Fanale sits in the passenger seat of her unmarked car, waiting for the undercover cadet to enter a pool hall that is not supposed to be selling alcohol, but may be anyway. Beside her is Officer Jacqueline Peters, her driver and friend since the lieutenant arrived in the Fifth. "I wish Sonny would get here with my shots," the lieutenant says. She left her hormone injections back at the precinct house. The officer finally calls her cellphone.

    "I'm on the corner of Eldridge and Hester," Lieutenant Fanale says. She hangs up and chuckles. "It's like a drug transaction."

    Another unmarked car pulls up. An officer, Richie Stellmann, leans out with a paper bag. "We got the goods," he says, passing it over and driving away.

    Her driver, Officer Peters, takes the needles and small bottles that Lieutenant Fanale hands her and arranges them on the keyboard of the laptop computer between the front seats. Working in the pale glow of the screen, she draws liquid from the bottles into the syringe, tapping the tube with a fingernail to get the bubbles out. "You know somebody's going to call this in," the lieutenant says. " 'They're shooting up in the car and they're wearing N.Y.P.D. jackets.' "

    She kneels sideways on the seat, ducking her head and spiked gray hair against the roof. Officer Peters leans forward and carefully inserts the needle into her lieutenant's belly and pushes the plunger. Done.

    Lieutenant Fanale sits back down and picks up her radio.

    "How we doing?" she asks the officers near the pool hall. "Is he in yet?"

    The Metrosexual

    The little boutiques are Officer Stellmann's beat. Incredible, the changes around here. Fathers used to make their family wait in the car while they checked their building's foyer for sleeping homeless people. These days the most obvious crime is the Bolognese sauce. Today, fathers drop $20 on a round of rice pudding cups, from a shop that sells only rice pudding.

    The boutiques boggle the minds of police officers, most of them with homes on Long Island or Staten Island: the stores seem to open when they feel like it, and sell about seven things, and they make a killing. Often high on price and low on security, the boutiques have been ripe targets for simple larcenies, young men darting into, say, the store Vice on Lafayette Street, grabbing a bunch of jeans and running out.

    Officer Stellmann's business cards are tacked behind counters all over Little Italy and its younger, moneyed cousin, NoLIta. The officer, who is 31, began work in the precinct 10 years ago, a restaurant manager turned rookie cop aiming high. "I wanted to be a gung-ho cop. I wanted to make a lot of arrests. Rise up the ladder, be a big boss."

    That's not quite what happened. He spent his first three years on two fixed posts, standing around, first at the South Street Seaport, then at the courthouse. "I didn't see a patrol car. I didn't arrest anybody. I hated it." It bored him into underachievement. "That ruined my whole aspect of becoming a boss on this job," he says.

    "I thought it was going to be cops and robbers, gung-ho stuff. But our major crime is mostly car boosters, peddlers. That's a major thing for the precinct. This is more of a political precinct." More schmoozing than shooting. He became the precinct's delegate to the union.

    He periodically drops by the shops on his beat, to check out the security, and the sales. "The joke in the precinct is I'm the metrosexual cop," says Officer Stellmann, who is from Queens and is known in the precinct as Sonny. "I get my nails done every month. I get a pedicure every two months. I get my eyebrows plucked, my body waxed. I like to dress well, to feel good. I love fashion."

    The Rookie

    One warm Friday, the anticrime squad tries its own trick, a pick operation. A plainclothes officer walks down Canal with her backpack unzipped. More officers follow - or "ghost " - her from a discreet distance.

    The bait is a rookie, Officer Suk Too, 28, a Chinese immigrant who wanted to be a police officer since high school here. "They picked on us because we're small, me and my friends," she said. She is so short, she worries that she will never be able to patrol on a bicycle because she may not be able to reach the pedals.

    "I'm short and I'm small, and every time I'd look up to a cop I feel like, wow, it must be really cool to be a cop," she said.

    Cool, indeed: Last month, Officer Too, responding to a 911 call of someone throwing bottles out a window in SoHo, found herself in an elevator with a disturbed and rambling Courtney Love. She tried calming her down, and called her Courtney.

    Today she looks every inch the part of a student strolling aimlessly, with her sunglasses and T-shirt and half-open backpack. If you look closely, you can even see a dollar bill sticking out of the wallet. People hurry and shuffle and glide and lurch past her.

    No takers. An older officer tells her later that one guy seemed interested in the wallet, but that Officer Too walked off too fast for him to make his move. "You see somebody who looks good, you slow down," the officer says. "Let them have a chance."

    In the old days, rookies stood in front of corpses, keeping the rubberneckers moving, or twirling their nightsticks at the seaport to ward off drug dealers and addicts. Now it's pickpockets and rock stars.

    With the arrival of spring, Canal Street teems with residents, window-shoppers, tourists. Victims. It's not hard to imagine that some of the thieves use tricks that were popular a hundred years ago, when the area was the Five Points slum.

    There is the Ketchup Trick: Guy comes up from behind and secretly squirts ketchup on the unsuspecting target, then points out the stain and offers to help, eventually picking the flustered person's pocket.

    There are the second-story men, breaking into Chinatown apartments from the fire escape while the residents are out, looting the place, and leaving from the front door. Thieves from Brooklyn come over on the train, snatch a few purses, and are back across the East River before an Asian officer with the right dialect can take a report - if the victim calls the police at all.

    Like wide neckties and disco, even the old tricks come back. "When's the last time you saw the rock-in-the-box?" an officer in civilian clothes asks, jerking his thumb toward the man locked up in the holding cell in the back room. The man had tried to sell the officer a camcorder, still in the box, for $150 on Canal Street. Inside was a hunk of concrete wrapped in paper.

    There are still D.O.A.'s, dead-on-arrivals, that the officers regularly find in the precinct. Each one is a life lost, a source of pain to friends and family.

    But when is a dead man in the precinct good news in the station house?

    One night, a man rushes to a friend's apartment. He has not heard from him in days, and hurries to the little walk-up in Little Italy and asks the superintendent to unlock the door. It opens, but only a little. The chain inside is latched. Not good.

    Officer Anthony Keck and his partner, Officer Wang Lee, respond to the call. Officer Keck leans back on one big boot and puts the other into the door, snapping the chain. Hand resting on his holstered gun, he walks inside the cluttered one-bedroom and peeks around a corner. He winces, turns back toward the door and says, "D.O.A."

    The body is sprawled awkwardly on the floor, as if trying to roll over. The gray, sunken face is unrecognizable from the one on the man's California driver's license, a 46-year-old personal manager in the music industry who once worked with Herbie Hancock and David Byrne on soundtracks that led to Academy Awards for them. He was trying for a comeback.

    None of the officers know any of this, or have ever heard of him. More arrive.

    "You got a smoke?" one asks.

    Another shakes his head.

    "Oh, man, you quit?" the first asks. "How'd you do it?"

    "Wanted to."

    There is cocaine and heroin paraphernalia in the room. Variety and Billboard will publish short obituaries in the days ahead, but Compstat will not record this death. The numeral 1 in the precinct's murder column will not change in this apartment.

    When is a dead man good news?

    When he got that way himself.

    The Enterprising Officer

    Officer George Wolfrom, 32, has watched the sun rise over the neighborhood from behind the wheel of his patrol car since February 2000, when he joined the department. It's great for golfing: off duty at 7:50 a.m. every day, teeing off by 10.

    Officer Wolfrom is one of a handful of military reservists in the precinct. He shipped out to Iraq for half of last year with the Marines, mainly patrolling Nasiriya. He is single; there was no wife worrying back home, no children. Truth is, he loved it. "There was no better feeling as an American," he says. "I'd definitely go back if I was called."

    If you're a police officer, there are two ways to leave the precinct. Ask to, or screw up. He has a plan: "My goal is to go to the Joint Terrorist Task Force. I have a little experience in fighting terrorists. It's something I think I would be very good at."

    To get on the task force, an officer has to get his gold shield, make the rank of detective. Officer Wolfrom is smart enough to know that the department is thick with others who think they are headed to an elite unit, only to wake up for work 15 years later with the same uniform hanging on the back of the chair.

    The job is like war that way. Promotions come quickly in combat, slowly during peacetime. In a department of some 37,000 officers, it is not easy to stand out.

    Unless you catch a break.

    In early April, Officer Wolfrom responded to a call in a neighboring precinct, a woman lying on the subway tracks. The police got her up and put her in an ambulance to Bellevue Hospital Center for a psychiatric work-up. Officer Wolfrom ended up taking her husband along in his radio car.

    The next day, stuck in traffic after golfing, he heard a news report on the radio about the rape of a patient in Bellevue. The victim's description of the rapist sounded familiar: the husband. Officer Wolfrom called a detective. By the time he got to work shortly before midnight, the husband had been arrested.

    Days later, Officer Wolfrom found himself dressed in a suit and standing beside Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly at a ceremony at 1 Police Plaza. The news media were there, cameras, the whole deal. He played down his role: "There's not many people at Bellevue that tall and wearing a leather jacket." The commissioner handed him a check for $500 and told him, "Spend it in good health."

    He did, starting with a steak at Peter Luger. Coincidentally, that night was the precinct's private Spring Fling party at Capitale, a swank club in a former bank on the Bowery. He kept the suit on and smiled at the waitress with the tray of something called caponata. Not bad. Despite the year-old smoking ban, most hands at the party sprouted lit cigarettes like thin, pale fingers. His tie loosened, beer in hand, Officer Wolfrom spent much of the night being slapped on the back by his fellow officers.

    A year ago, he thought, I was drinking warm water in Nasiriya. Wow.

    Friends told him this couldn't be bad for getting closer to the task force. "This," he said, "hopefully speeds things up."

    Anatomy of a Bad Day

    At a recent community meeting, things were dragging. An elderly man in the back was insisting there had been a breach in parliamentary procedure.

    The cellphone on Lieutenant Fanale's hip should have already rung to tell her the results of her blood test that morning, and whether she was finally pregnant. "I'm a nervous wreck," she muttered. Most of the officers in the building knew she was expecting news from the doctor. After all, this is the woman who, when she leaves the precinct house, shouts over her shoulder, "Heading out like a fetus!"

    She finally got the call after 10 p.m. "It's not good news. That's why you didn't call, right?" she said into her cellphone. Around her, 10 officers stopped what they were doing and stared.

    Pause. "What does that mean?" the lieutenant asked.

    Pause. "So I might be pregnant right now?"

    The officers exchanged looks. Might be pregnant?

    "O.K. O.K. O.K. O.K. Should I be taking it easy or anything?"

    The lieutenant hung up. The voice on the other end had said her hormone levels were high for someone who was not pregnant, but alarmingly low for someone who was. Yes, she might be pregnant. They would draw blood again in two days to be sure.

    Some officers mumbled awkward congratulations as she dialed her mother. Most just disappeared.

    Two days passed: Friday, the beginning of what was shaping up to be a long weekend. The night before in Queens, in the 109th Precinct, a stabbing occurred and was believed to involve Asian gangs; officers working the case were tipped that a retaliatory strike could take place in Chinatown. An extra slate of six officers and a sergeant were assigned the evening and midnight shifts for three days, a total of six overtime shifts. Nobody was getting a weekend.

    And nobody needed one as badly as Lieutenant Fanale, standing, as sundown approached, in front of St. Patrick's Old Cathedral. She directed another officer to keep traffic off this block of Mott Street until a wedding inside ended.

    She was baptized in this church. She was on the way here when her cellphone rang. It was the doctor. She had been pregnant, but she had a miscarriage. "Sometime between Wednesday morning and Friday morning," she said outside the cathedral. Organ music seeped out from inside.

    The lieutenant looked exhausted. A helicopter hovered overhead somewhere, out of sight. She thought it must be the police, part of the extra detail for the weekend, a show of presence beyond the uniforms on the street.

    She was wrong.

    A week later, the story was shown on the Channel 2 news at 11 p.m., the lead segment in the broadcast: "Why was a New York City street shut down for a wedding?" the anchor asked, staring gravely into the camera. "It looks like a well-connected couple was getting married and didn't want to deal with traffic. Now an investigation is under way into this controversial police perk. . . .''

    The report included complaints from two or three people who live or work in the neighborhood, and a promise from a city councilman to look into the matter, calling the closing "completely unacceptable."

    The helicopter overhead that day was Chopper 2, shooting images of the two stretch limousines.

    Two days after the story was broadcast, Lieutenant Fanale was still fuming. "I haven't been able to sleep, I'm so annoyed."

    The wedding was not a special case, she insisted. Between the parked limousines and construction across the street, cars had little room to pass that day, and the street was closed for less than an hour. The police did the same thing the day before for a big funeral in Chinatown.

    "A lot of people don't understand; all they have to do is ask, and we'll accommodate them," she said. "It makes our jobs easier."

    Yes, she knew the couple getting married, although remotely, through friends of her grandparents who lived for many years on the next block from the church. By that standard, she knows everyone who has spent any time in the neighborhood in the last half century.

    "All those shops on Mott, Mulberry, they all have my cellphone number, in case someone picks their pocket or whatever. And these are the same people who are back-stabbing me," she said. "I don't have to give out my cellphone number. Technically, I could tell them to call 911."

    She had the next two days off, her first two in a row since she was on bed rest with the implanted embryos two weeks before.


    Captain Matusiak marked his first anniversary as commanding officer last week. The tug-of-war with Compstat continues: This week, he will try to keep the number of crimes below 24, the figure for the same week last year. The summer of 2003 was a wet one, and the weather kept the criminals indoors, but this season has been sunnier, and crime is down only about 2 percent.

    Officer Wolfrom was transferred to the precinct's anticrime unit in June. He gets to work in plain clothes, and takes a step toward a gold shield. He works from 4 p.m. to midnight and squeezes in his golf before work. A few weeks after his Bellevue collar, a man he was trying to restrain on the Lower East Side punched him in the mouth, chipping a tooth.

    Officer Too still walks her post on Canal Street and answers the phone in the station. From time to time, she gets to work in plain clothes, as she did in May, when she visited three Chinese groceries and bought a bottle of counterfeit cough syrup at each one.

    Lieutenant Fanale is considering taking the captain's test, after completing her degree. She has not decided whether she will try again with pregnancy. "I'm trying not to think about it," she says. She was offered a job at 1 Police Plaza, a post in the domestic violence unit, but she turned it down. Too much desk work.

    Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

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    Death (mostly)
    by association


    Random murder is becoming largely a thing of the past on the streets of New York.

    As the city's homicide rate continues its dramatic, decade-long decline, a closer look at the NYPD's crime statistics has revealed something remarkable.

    Of the 1,010 people killed in New York from the beginning of 2003 through last Sunday, nearly four of every five victims knew their killers.

    During the same span, nearly three of every five suspects charged with murder had rap sheets - as did nearly four of every five victims, according to a study by the NYPD Office of Management Analysis and Planning.

    "It is highly unlikely that a tourist or a law-abiding citizen would be the victim of murder," Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly told the Daily News yesterday.

    Kelly ordered the NYPD to examine the homicide data more closely last year in an effort to find new ways to continue reducing murders and other major crime.

    Law enforcement officials long have theorized that many murder victims had criminal records, so their findings were not unexpected, Kelly said.

    "But the fact that it's up that high - almost 80% - was somewhat surprising," Kelly said.

    The startling data makes clear that killings such as the slaying of Usha Taneja, a 56-year-old mother from College Point, Queens, who was bludgeoned to death during an armed robbery in late August, are rare occurrences.

    No comparable data exist for the years prior to 2003, but over the past 11 years, the city's murder rate has plunged 71.8%, according to the latest NYPD statistics.

    So far this year, the city's streets are safer than they have ever been since reliable data were first kept in 1962.

    Through Sunday, 413 people have been killed compared with 458 people during the first nine months of 2003 - a nearly 10% drop.

    If the pace holds, about 551 people will be killed this year, roughly a quarter of the peak year, 1990, when 2,245 people were murdered.

    In addition to the homicide decline, major crime also has fallen by 4.9% this year, with every significant category - except rape and grand larceny - down.

    The NYPD has been able to keep crime falling, despite added counterterrorism demands and budget cuts that have shrunk the force by 5,000 cops in the past four years.

    Kelly credited rank-and-file cops for the success and also pointed to Operation Impact, an initiative that floods high-crime zones with cops.

    Major-crime categories in the targeted areas are down an average of 35% and homicides are down 27%, Kelly said.

    Criminologists have cautioned that the homicide decline cannot continue forever and eventually will bottom out. But Kelly was not willing to take that position yesterday.

    "Our goal is to continue to suppress crime of all types," he said. "There is no letup on our part and there will be no letup."

    Originally published on October 1, 2004

    ©Copyright The New York Daily News, 2004

  3. #48

  4. #49


    December 14, 2004

    Mayor Vows to Keep Crime Low


    Crystallizing his message for his re-election campaign, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg said yesterday that crime has fallen nearly 5 percent this year in New York, and wrapped the announcement in a rosy assessment of life in the city under his tutelage.

    "I think it's fair to say our city is on a roll," Mr. Bloomberg said during a news conference in Crown Heights, Brooklyn. "Our quality of life is strong, our schools are improving and our economy is growing again. Jobs are being created in all five boroughs and unemployment is the lowest it's been in three years."

    And setting a new bar for his performance on the law enforcement front, Mr. Bloomberg also declared, "As long as I am mayor we will keep crime coming down in this city." Crime has fallen sharply over the last decade and New York outpaces the rest of the nation.

    According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, New York's crime rate remains 25th out of the 25 major cities around the country, and out of 217 cities with populations greater than 100,000, New York City was ranked 203rd, between Alexandria, Va., and Ann Arbor, Mich.

    The mayor, whose statistics came from the Police Department and are as of last week, attributed much of the drop in crime to Operation Impact, a program that puts more officers in neighborhoods where crime patterns persist. This year, the initiative has resulted in more than 11,000 arrests, Mr. Bloomberg said. Further, the city is on course to have fewer than 600 homicides by year's end for the third year in a row; in the Bronx, homicides are down 34.5 percent over the last three years.

    During his lengthy remarks yesterday, Mr. Bloomberg also alluded to the 18.5 percent property tax increase he ordered in 2002. The mayor is not fond of talking about the increase. But yesterday he used it to defend his record on maintaining city services. "I did something unpopular," he said, "I asked the City Council to pass a tax increase." But he did so, he said, "not worrying about politics." The mayor was concerned enough about politics, however, to refund most of the increase this year, a move likely central to his re-election bid as well.

    Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

  5. #50


    December 24, 2004

    New York Murder Rate Falls Again, but Has It Hit Bottom?


    Homicides in New York City are down more than 5 percent as the year draws to a close, continuing a remarkable 14-year decline that has long confounded experts. Five of the other six major crime categories have also dropped.

    As of yesterday morning, with barely more than a week to go in 2004, there had been 549 slayings in the city, down from 579 in the same period last year and from 2,245 in all of 1990, at the height of the crack epidemic. In all, 597 people were slain in the city in 2003.

    A few of the country's largest cities have improved on New York's decline, notably Chicago, with a stunning 25 percent decrease in homicides from last year to this year. In the first six months of the year, cities with populations over a million drove their homicide rate down an average of 8.7 percent, according to F.B.I. statistics. But experts say that those cities, many of which have adopted New York's crime-fighting strategies, are playing catch-up, while New York is trimming the fat ever closer to the bone.

    "When you lose weight, it's always easier to lose the first pounds than the latter pounds," said Eli Silverman, a professor of police studies at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice. "What other cities have done is quite remarkable, but on the other hand it has to be taken into consideration where they were before. The fact that New York still went down is even more remarkable."

    In the country's 10 largest cities, the homicide rate (the number of murders per 100,000 people each year) was 12.4, according to the F.B.I.'s most recent data. In New York, it was 6.8.

    New York's overall number of serious crimes also declined, by 4.6 percent, with only one category, grand larceny, increasing. The drop in crime has defied the expectations of criminologists, many of whom warned of an uptick as the economy slowed after 1999.

    The numbers are a boon for Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, who is likely to point to them as one of the concrete achievements of his administration as he runs for re-election next year, and for his police commissioner, Raymond W. Kelly.

    The drop comes despite the fact that the New York City Police Department is somewhat smaller than it was at times during the last 10 years, down to 37,000 from roughly 40,000, and the fact that the department is focused on preventing terrorism in addition to fighting crime.

    Still, some say New Yorkers have come to expect an ever-safer city even as that becomes harder to provide. The declines are inevitably slowing, and Compstat, the Police Department's vaunted and imitated accountability system, has in effect made the department a victim of its own success by focusing on percentage drops from one year to the next.

    In 2001, the newspaper columnist Jack Newfield suggested that a homicide count below 600 would be worth a ticker tape parade. If things stay on course, 2004 will be the third year in a row that the city has met that goal.

    "The good news is how far we've come, and the disappointing part is that we can't seem to go much lower than this number," said Andrew Karmen, a sociologist who has extensively analyzed the factors affecting New York's crime rate, from drug use and unemployment to the size of the police force.

    Even Commissioner Kelly acknowledged yesterday that there was a limit to crime reduction.

    "There's always unfortunately going to be a core number of homicides that law enforcement can't do very much about," he said.

    The numbers bear this out - the percentage of killings that happen on the street has gone down, to 33 percent from 40 percent last year, while the percentage in homes and housing projects has increased slightly, according to a new Police Department homicide and shooting database maintained by the Deputy Commissioner of Operations, Garry F. McCarthy.

    Mr. Kelly attributes much of the decline in homicide to the increasingly precise deployment of resources. Operation Impact, for example, pinpoints the city's most troubled blocks and floods them with uniformed officers and anticrime squads.

    "Our homicides are down in the domestic violence area, down as far as gang-related incidents are concerned," he said yesterday. "Impact focuses on those areas where you have that gang activity."

    Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

  6. #51
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    Join Date
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    New York City


    I think it's to assume that the decline in the murder rate is "bottoming out," so to speak. We've heard such predictions in 1998, when there was last an "end" to the decline; the numbers for 1999 and 2000 were consecutively higher before going down again in 2001, sans September 11. I won't count the slight uptick in 2003 from 2002 because the numbers are way too similar.

    As times — and crimes — change, so, too, must tactics for fighting crime. Maybe next year we can shoot for fewer than 500 homicides.

  7. #52


    December 31, 2004

    As Murders Fall, New Tactics Are Tried Against Remainder


    Graphic: A Picture of Declining Crime

    Murders in New York City have dropped, again. So low has the number dipped - to 566 so far this year from a high of 2,245 in 1990 - that even Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly has begun to gently lower the public's expectations, warning of a core number of homicides resistant to even New York's gargantuan police force.

    Low crime rates are more often the stuff of proud news conferences than of intense scrutiny. Yet as street-corner slayings and drug turf drive-bys have melted away, police officials are collecting more data than ever on the remaining few hundred murders, tracking motives, locations, and even the national origin of victims and killers.

    A huge endeavor, the new database provides insight into the question of how much lower, in a city of eight million people, the body count can go. It also offers a picture of how the nature of murder in New York City - a post-crack, post-crackdown New York City - has changed, and how anti-violence strategies must change with it.

    Some things have not changed: disputes are the most common type of homicide, followed by drug-related slayings. But based on a review of data drawn from multiple agencies, including the Police Department, the Health Department, the Administration for Children's Services and the State Department of Criminal Justice, much has shifted since 1991.

    While guns still top the list of murder weapons, there are proportionally fewer gun deaths and far fewer drug-related ones. Street murders are down. Innocent bystanders, once the subject of so many screaming headlines, no longer need Kevlar.

    But the most stubborn types of homicide - child abuse, intimate-partner killings and other violence in the home - have increased as a percentage of the total. Gang crimes have given way to rivalries between housing projects. Cocaine and crack dealers have retreated, but violence related to the marijuana trade has persisted and, some experts say, risen, because the market has grown and penalties are lax.

    New Yorkers are far less likely to be killed by a stranger or casual acquaintance now than 15 years ago. If you are a foreign-born man, you are also less likely to be a victim, but the percentage of female victims who are foreign-born has gone up markedly. The proportion of victims who are black has increased, with a corresponding decrease in the proportion of Hispanics, while the racial breakdown of perpetrators has stayed roughly the same. Killers are slightly older, with the number of teenage suspects falling and the number aged 30 to 34 rising.

    The real challenge is the fewer the deaths, the harder it is to reduce those that remain. New York's homicide rate, 6.9 for every 100,000 people, is already less than that of many far smaller American cities. But some criminologists point to foreign cities like London, with a rate of 2.4, or Amsterdam, at 4.0, as evidence that sizable reductions are possible.

    "How low can it go?" said Mr. Kelly, who initiated the database project. "Who knows? Certainly it's our goal, our public policy position, to do everything we can to continue to suppress it. And we're getting more information agencywide that is going to help us do that."

    Experts have long debated the causes of New York's startling reduction in crime. While some have argued that socioeconomic forces and shifting demographics - immigrants, for example, are on average less likely to commit crimes - have done most of the work, the police fiercely defend the role of law enforcement strategies like a greater street presence in trouble spots and a focused effort on taking guns off the streets.

    But now that the steepest drops in the body count are past, experts agree on one thing: Saving lives now depends on small-bore interventions and ever-greater attention to detail, whether that means handing out tougher sentences for gun possession, meeting with the Mexican consul general to learn more about inroads by gangs who speak the indigenous Mexican language Mixtec, finding jobs for parolees or giving domestic violence victims pendants that let them immediately summon the police.

    "It's sort of saying, where are the gaps here?" said John Feinblatt, the criminal justice coordinator for the Bloomberg administration. "Where are things falling through the cracks? Is there something where we're not effectively pulling the thread through from arrest to sentencing? You have to come up with increasingly tailored solutions."

    Stubborn Category: Disputes

    Luciano Yevenes was a friendly, lonely drunk whose only public transgressions were banging on his neighbors' doors in search of company and sometimes passing out in the hall. He had never been in trouble with the police. He had a dog, Ninos, who enjoyed his own bedroom, with a child's bed. He had a closet stocked with cleaning products in two scents, raspberry and floral. On his door was a picture of Jesus. On his wall was a 2003 calendar from ABC, a friendly neighborhood liquor store.

    On Monday afternoon, Mr. Yevenes became No. 563. He was stabbed to death on his kitchen floor, his torso perforated, his throat slit from ear to ear. His hand was thrown over his face as if to ward off further blows.

    The mystery in this case is not so much who did it, but why. That day Mr. Yevenes, who sometimes worked as a painter, and his neighbor, Anthony Stanback, 30, were enjoying a couple of midday Colt 45's. Mr. Stanback, who has been arrested on charges that he killed Mr. Yevenes, told detectives that he could not remember what set off his violent rage, the police say. When he finally returned to his family's apartment on Tuesday, he took a kitchen knife and began slicing his own legs. "He just snapped," said Lt. Bernardo Colon, the commander of the 77th Precinct detective squad.

    It was the kind of killing that flummoxes the police. It was not hoodlum versus hoodlum. It was not a jealous boyfriend. The small bag of marijuana found on Mr. Yevenes's counter did not make it a drug case. So it goes into the largest category: dispute.

    Disputes that end in death can be set off by anything from road rage to a funny look on the dance floor. By Dec. 23, there were 151 homicides in the dispute category, 28 percent of this year's total.

    Another 24 percent were considered drug-related, followed by domestic (12 percent), robberies (11), revenge (7), gang-related (6), and on down.

    Domestic murders, by the Police Department's definition, include any death that occurs among relatives in the home or between people who have a child in common.

    Another category, women killed by current or former intimate partners, is tracked by Dr. Susan Wilt, the assistant commissioner for health promotion and disease prevention at the Health Department. In 1995, the first year such victims were counted, there were 53 - 4.5 percent of the total homicides. In 2000, they reached a low of 23, but now the number is on the rise. In 2003, 34 women were killed by boyfriends, husbands, or other romantic partners. In 2004 there were 41 or 8.5 percent of the total.

    For Garry F. McCarthy, the deputy commissioner of operations, who is instrumental in plotting the department's crime-fighting strategy and whose office maintains the new database, domestic homicides are a thorny problem, because there is no clear predictor for which strife-filled relationships will turn fatal. Of the 41 intimate-partner homicides of women this year, 28 of the couples had no previous contact with the police. At least one woman had an order of protection, but let her boyfriend violate it.

    As the Police Department strives for more and more specific information, the "dispute" designation has become less and less useful. "I'm thinking of getting rid of that category," Mr. McCarthy said. "By definition, all homicides are disputes."

    Others have tackled the same problem. A 1999 study of Brooklyn homicides commissioned by Charles J. Hynes, the borough's district attorney, tried to break disputes into smaller categories: conflicts over property ownership, disputes arising out of illegal business activities, drug or alcohol-fueled disputes, disputes over personal relationships, and disputes that escalate from trivial matters.

    The largest category, they found, were long-running feuds, like the one that apparently lay behind the death of Lisa Taylor, 35, early this week. She was shot at the front door of her house in Queens, the police said, by a relative of the 9-year-old boy with whom her 7-year-old daughter had been fighting. Such ongoing fights, the Brooklyn study found, accounted for more than 20 percent of dispute-related killings.

    That figure would not surprise detectives, who often say that today's victim is tomorrow's perpetrator. Tracking the cycle of insult and revenge is one objective of the new database, which includes shootings as well as homicides, recording as much information as possible about each incident: primary and secondary motives, aliases, criminal records, even whether the location was ever used as a drug market or gambling den.

    The specifics are important: national origin, for example, could reveal something about feuds or family and gang ties. It is more useful to know, Commissioner McCarthy said, that some people involved in a crime are Salvadoran or Dominican than that they are simply Hispanic.

    Life, Death and Geography

    All crime, like all politics, is local, and to some extent geography is destiny. Luciano Yevenes died in the 77th Precinct, in Crown Heights, in Brooklyn, which has the highest number of homicides of any borough. When his mother appeared, the neighbors told her what had happened, and she fainted on the sidewalk.

    The 77th Precinct is one of the hot ones; although the number of homicides there has dropped 82 percent since 2003, it is still in the 10 most dangerous precincts. The 75th Precinct, East New York, is consistently No. 1. Yet others have dropped completely out of sight: the 30th Precinct in Harlem went from 8th in 1993 to 43rd last year, and the 46th Precinct in the Bronx has seen similar improvement.

    "You have to look at it precinct by precinct," Commissioner Kelly said when asked about this discrepancy. "Sometimes it's gentrification. Sometimes it's buildings being torn down."

    So life, or death, may depend on urban planning. Last year a study commissioned, again, by Mr. Hynes, looked at East Flatbush, which has gone from 10th in homicides to 3rd, and Brownsville, which has gone from 3rd to 15th. The study found that Brownsville's housing projects, and drug markets, were clustered in the center of the precinct, making them easier to police. But in East Flatbush, where violence was more entrenched, the center of the precinct was mostly single-family homes. The rough areas were scattered around the perimeter.

    At one time the Vanderveer Estates, a housing project where large drug rings have been dismantled in recent years, was among them. One intersection near the project, Foster and Nostrand, was referred to by residents as the Front Page, because the drug murders that happened there made the news, said Ric Curtis, an anthropologist at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice and one of the study's authors. Another area was called the Back Page, because it was the site of less sensational crimes.

    On the surface, it is hard to argue that the death of Mr. Yevenes had anything to do with where he lived. Then again, the man who the police say killed him was an ex-convict. Mr. Stanback had done time in the 1990's for robbery and misdemeanor assault. About 5,000 parolees or former inmates return home to Brooklyn every year. And while only 7 percent of homicide suspects are parolees, almost 68 percent have a previous arrest record.

    The Brooklyn district attorney's office has recently expanded a program that gives counseling and jobs to former inmates. "I believe that the key to public safety is recidivism reduction," Mr. Hynes said.

    Undoubtedly, alcohol was also a factor in Mr. Yevenes's death. Andrew Karmen, a professor who has spent untold hours studying the factors that affect the homicide rate, from police strategies to demographics to an uptick in the city's education level, combed through autopsy files to see how many homicide victims were drunk or on drugs. He found that in 1997, 39 percent of victims tested positive for alcohol, 17 percent for cocaine, 2 percent for opiates and 21 percent for marijuana. Almost half of all victims had some intoxicant in their bloodstream when they were killed.

    Statistics like these suggest the limits of law enforcement in combating violence. "Effective law enforcement can bring down the crime rate to a considerable degree," Dr. Karmen said. "But only by tackling the social roots of crime - poverty, unemployment, failing schools - can a society truly prevent despair and disruption."

    But just as law enforcement is telescoping down to the smallest elements of violence, environmental and social measures need not tackle the large questions to be effective. The Brooklyn study found that good management in housing projects helped suppress crime - one replaced the mailboxes and ceiling tiles where dealers liked to stash contraband; another put security cameras and card readers in the laundry room, so residents would not have to use cash.

    "The macro changes that we saw - improvements in the economy, changes in demographics, the drop-off in the crack epidemic - all of those have kind of run their course, if you will," Dr. Curtis said. "These further improvements on the local level come from being able to focus on the smaller stuff."

    Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

  8. #53
    Forum Veteran
    Join Date
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    Garden City, LI


    Yes, the tactics need to change in some ways, but what has worked will work more, just not as statistically "impressively." So what? 5% a year for the next 10 sounds good to me. I don't buy that we are at some sort of floor. London, etc. was a great example.

    I bet in a few years, as Crown Hts. gentrifies, that will drop from the #1 spot, for sure.

  9. #54
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    Join Date
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    London has a HUGE problem with petty crime, though.

  10. #55


    I beileve the game shifts from tough phyiscal police work to more of a social fix. I beileve NY can go as low as 200 but we'll need to change and add ways to approach this. Domestic violence still wages a toll on the city, in part cue to the fact that in many immigrant cultures, women do not have equal status. I think one way to drop crime is reaching out to immigrant communites to combat family and spouse violence. The same should be done in poor areas as well. Better counseling services and better community awareness would better help prevent and keep a lookout for family violence. Also, fights are another stubborn social cause of homicide. If we teach the city's kids and young adults early that A) there's no manhood in fighting and B) better ways to resolve a conflict, then we can help quell those homicides. Another part of this is understanding the phsycology of fights and the issues over which they most commonly occur. The gun trade is another big factor in quelling the remaining violence. I think we should have better investgations and tracking of the gun trade. If we can get into these rings and find out how, when and where they're doing this, then we can blow up the gun trade from the inside out. These are some of the ways the city should think about dealing with the remaining core of homicides.

  11. #56


    January 31, 2005

    Subway Crime Rose Slightly in 2004, Police Data Shows


    rime in the New York City subways rose slightly last year after six consecutive years of decline, according to police statistics.

    The police recorded 3,286 major felonies in the subways in 2004, a 2.1 percent increase over the 3,218 that occurred in 2003. Even so, the number of major crimes has fallen by nearly half since 1997.

    Assaults and thefts accounted for most of the increase. The police are concentrating on pickpockets around MetroCard vending machines and creating a citywide task force to address fights and assaults by teenagers in the subway system, particularly on weekdays after students leave school, a police official said.

    About 100 of the 2,100 transit police officers will comprise the task force, according to the official, Assistant Chief Henry R. Cronin III, commander of the city's Transit Bureau. At various times, the task force might have 30 to 50 officers "saturating a line," riding the cars and focusing on crucial stations, Chief Cronin said.

    The small increase in crime occurred during a year when a string of violent episodes attracted broad public attention.

    On June 1, an actress was shot in the shoulder as her train approached Times Square. On June 20, an officer chased a robbery suspect onto subway tracks in TriBeCa and fatally shot the suspect after he turned on another officer. Two days later, a gunman shot a passenger to death on a half-full subway car in Chelsea.

    On June 28, a man opened fire on a passenger, but missed, on a subway platform in the Financial District. On July 1, a 23-year-old man was seriously injured in a shooting on an elevated subway platform in Queens.

    The statistics show that there were three homicides last year, one fewer than in 2003. There were 281 assaults, 24 more than in the previous year.

    The Police Department has been responsible for patrolling the subways since 1995, when separate transit and public housing police forces were merged with the larger department.

    The figures suggest that the police have maintained a vigorous effort against subway crime. Last year, the transit police made 27,303 arrests, a 38.7 percent increase from 2002.

    On another measure, the number of people ejected from the subway system, usually for violating rules or for fare evasion, increased 30.4 percent last year, to 92,028, from 70,565 in 2003. In 2002, there were 102,408 ejections.

    Paul J. Browne, a police spokesman, said the 2003 figure appeared to be unusually low. "It may reflect a dip in attempted fare evasion and other illegal activity after a high number of ejections, but there are too many variables to say for certain," Mr. Browne said. "One thing is certain: Enforcement is constant."

    Many of those ejected from the subway are homeless adults with serious mental illness or substance abuse problems, according to Muzzy Rosenblatt, directory of the Bowery Residents' Committee, an organization that recently received a contract from the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to do outreach for the homeless.

    The issue of the homeless in the subway system received attention last week when transit officials said initially that a homeless person might have inadvertently caused the Jan. 23 fire that destroyed a signal relay room in Lower Manhattan and paralyzed service on the A and C subway lines. Police and fire officials later said it was too early to determine who set the fire.

    Mr. Browne said that the number of homeless people living in the subway system has sharply declined over the last 20 years. "We are making contact with the homeless daily and either bringing them to shelters or arresting them," he said.

    Copyright 2005 The New York Times Company

  12. #57

  13. #58


    March 14, 2005

    New York, No Longer a Crime Capital, Is Still Playing One on TV

    f it ever really was, New York is no longer the nation's crime capital, but it remains the capital of television crime shows. So while crime still pays, maybe it pays better, as with fine antiques and wine, to invest in the vintage years.

    That's the betting behind an hourlong NBC pilot, conceived by Sonny Grosso, the cop-turned-producer, which wraps up three weeks of filming on location in New York this week. The crime drama's working title, "NY70," invokes a tumultuous decade when crime, racial tension and political conflict consumed the city. The series is to be loosely based on "The French Connection" heroin smuggling case, which Mr. Grosso and his partner Eddie (Popeye) Egan cracked and which was the basis for the 1971 film that won five Oscars.

    "I'm here today because of that case," Mr. Grosso said last week, sipping coffee in the Roosevelt Hotel in Midtown, where a scene was being filmed in the presidential suite.

    "The city is way better, cleaner, less crime," he said. "Crime is down so much now that we have to go back to the 70's."

    The first episode begins familiarly enough with Bobby Cannavale, playing Mr. Grosso, driving through Harlem as a radio newscaster delivers contemporary headlines about an unpopular foreign war and protests against the president.

    "It sounds exactly like 2005," Mr. Grosso said. "You would swear we were talking about right now."

    But then the camera pans to reveal a 1970's streetscape, complete with a French Connection chase: an undercover cop in a Santa Claus suit is pursuing a drug dealer up the stairs to an elevated subway station.

    "Just think how smart you can be writing lines when you know what's going to happen in the next 30 years," Mr. Grosso said.

    Another echo of the bad old days of the 60's and 70's, the Knapp Commission on police corruption, which also figures in Mr. Grosso's show, reverberated last week in the federal indictment of two retired New York City police detectives, onetime partners, who were charged with taking part in eight murders on behalf of the Mafia - most while one or both were members of the force.

    One of the detectives, Louis Eppolito, was a co-writer of a book about being a police officer with relatives in the mob. Mr. Grosso considered adapting the book for a television show, but recalled, "at the time it didn't fit." No doubt, the story of Mr. Eppolito and the other detective, Stephen Caracappa, will now find its way to the screen. "It would be a hell of a show, but not something I would want to do," Mr. Grosso said. "All my life I have dealt with the positive nature of police shows. There are people who deal with the negative. Not me."

    Mr. Grosso was on the police force from 1954 until 1976, when he retired as a first-grade detective, became an actor, film consultant and writer and formed a production company with Larry Jacobson, a television veteran.

    "We've been together so long that if I had killed him 25 years ago, I'd be out on good behavior by now," Mr. Grosso said.

    He walks with a cane these days, to favor a bad hip, and also carries a .38 Colt revolver, the very same gun that was taped to the back of a toilet and fired by Al Pacino in a mob killing during the filming of "The Godfather." Mr. Grosso was an adviser on that film and also acted in it, as a detective.

    There was gunfire, too, on a night just before Christmas 2003, when a patron at Rao's, the tiny Italian restaurant on Pleasant Avenue in East Harlem, who objected to the singing of one of Mr. Grosso's dinner guests that night, was shot dead by another customer. The restaurant is around the corner from the house in which Mr. Grosso grew up.

    That Mr. Grosso and his partners are filming their entire show on location reflects another benchmark in the city's revival. He produced hundreds of hours of television crime shows over two decades that supposedly take place in New York but were really shot in Canada, but now, he says, production costs here have become more competitive and the locations, in many cases, mirror the sites of the French Connection case itself or the film.

    "New York becomes another character in the show," Mr. Grosso said. "The locations talk to you. You go to the right places in New York, they still look a lot like the 70's. You give people a few Afros, park a couple of cars, but the buildings are the same."

    "Hey, I'm still wearing clothes from the 70's," Mr. Grosso said.

    The show is being developed for NBC Universal and is to be broadcast in the fall. It stars Donnie Wahlberg as the Popeye Doyle character based on Mr. Egan, who died in 1995, and Tony Lo Bianco, who also starred in "The French Connection," as a congressman modeled on one of Mr. Grosso's friends, former Representative Mario Biaggi of the Bronx. Rand Ravich wrote the pilot for the series, whose first year is to climax with the largest seizure ever of pure heroin.

    In an interview, Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly welcomed the possibility that declining crime in New York was prompting television writers and producers to mine the past for material.

    "The environment was so different for cops in those days, the danger was much greater," he recalled. "Every job you went to was a possible ambush."

    Commissioner Kelly, who was a sergeant in East Harlem then, crossed paths with Mr. Grosso in 1972 at the Black Muslim mosque where an officer was shot after police responded to a call.

    Edward Conlon, a police officer and author of "Blue Blood," also recalled the crime rate from the early 1970's: "Crime - both street crime and organized crime - were rampant, and seemingly intractable problems. You also had the battle within, as the Knapp Commission was tearing up the department. For many cops, it felt like their guns were being taken away to be repaired while they were left in a free-fire zone, and for cops like Sonny, they didn't think their guns needed fixing."

    Mr. Grosso said, "It was a war then, and you had to act differently." Recalling the level of heroin use then, he said: "The junk epidemic was bursting out of Harlem. That's why Eddie acted crazier than the people we were chasing. He had one philosophy: 'It's our job to put the bad guys in jail; don't worry about the prosecutors and the judges.' He was a madman, but he made sure I got home every night."

    "Those days, we were just allowed to be cops," Mr. Grosso said. "We're in a different world now, so of course cops have to be different."

    Mr. Kelly said that while "there's a whole new set of concerns today with terrorism, in terms of the conventional crime threat it's been significantly reduced."

    "New Yorkers have become less tolerant of crime," he said, "but they also have become more blasé about the fact that it goes down, and goes down every year. It's old news."

    The television industry isn't worried. "N.Y.P.D. Blue" ended its 12-year run earlier this month, but there has been no shortage of New York crime shows.

    "Just because crime has gone down doesn't mean people have lost interest in crime shows," Rene Balcer, producer of "Law & Order: Criminal Intent," said in an interview. "Crime shows have traditionally come after great crime waves. With fear of terrorism, crime shows, cops shows, have a reassuring aspect to them."

    Neal Baer, executive producer of "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit," said: "Our show is not so much about the danger of the city, but about the psychology of victims and perps. We don't portray New York as a not very welcoming place."

    Copyright 2005 The New York Times Company

  14. #59

    Thumbs up

    A new crime show based in New York is "Blind Justice". I HIGHLY rec. this show, I love it. It airs on Tuesdays at 10 P.M.

  15. #60
    Forum Veteran
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    Nov 2002
    New York City

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    NY Daily News

    New low for murder?

    New Yorkers cheered going below 1,000 - now 500 beckons

    Jack Newfield, the hometown journalistic legend who died in December, once said that if the city's yearly murder tally fell below 600 the mayor should give the Police Department "a ticker-tape parade up Broadway."

    What would he have said if the police were able to bring that number below 500?

    It's a question worth asking, given that murders have already plummeted 17% through March 6 of this year compared with this time last year. If the trend persists, the city will see its first sub-500 year in murders since 1963, when New York began keeping accurate homicide records.

    Not to jinx things, but the achievement would be akin to breaking the sound barrier.

    Piercing 500 would be all the more remarkable for Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly considering that the NYPD head count is down 4,500 officers compared with 2000 and police union contract talks have been deadlocked for a year.

    Of course, the year is still young, and crime rates are at their core unpredictable. One Son of Sam or a deranged skinhead with an AK-47 could send the murder rate skyward. But the numbers are compelling nonetheless.

    The city ended 2004 with 570 murders. If this year's rate continues at 17% below that, the city would close out 2005 with 473 murders - a stunning triumph for Kelly and his corps.

    It was only nine years ago - 1996 - that the NYPD made the front pages from London to L.A. by wrestling murders below 1,000, to 983, from the stratospheric sum of 2,245 in 1990. Rudy Giuliani's tenure in City Hall saw murders nosedive to 649 annually when he left office in 2001.

    When Mike Bloomberg stepped in, most New Yorkers would have been happy just to see crime stats hold steady. Is there anyone in this delightfully cynical town who would have wagered that the billionaire and his police chief might actually drive that stat down another 25%?

    Chalk that up to Kelly's obsession with numbers. He created a "homicide database" that tells him everything from whether a murder was gang-related to whether the victim and perp knew each other.

    "We'll soon know how many hairs are on the victim's head," quipped an insider.

    All that data then gets translated into action, with hundreds of cops assigned to any area that shows a hike in murders.

    The implications of breaking the 500 barrier would be enormous. Low crime opens once-brutal, forbidding places like the South Bronx and central Brooklyn. It lifts home values, a pocketbook issue that tends to animate voters. It's the backbone of this city's quality of life.

    No doubt Bloomberg will run through $100 million or so drilling his and Kelly's irrefutable achievements into your noggin as he vies for another term. And he has every right to do so.

    But for all that to fall into place, Kelly has to keep a lid on things. A good bet given how he has taken police reporting to a new level.

    "We once were in the business of responding to crime," he said. "Today, our business is crime prevention."

    It's that kind of attitude that will take a city's murder rate below 500.

    [/b]Originally published on March 24, 2005[/b]

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