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I Was An NYPD Officer In The 80s. Here’s How We Strategically Lowered Crime Rates In Less Than A Decade.

On a summer day in 1986, in need of a cigarette, I emerged from the 59th Street subway station in Brooklyn with my K-9 partner, Sarge. I was a 24-year-old police officer with four years experience under my belt.

Standing on the corner of Fourth Avenue was another young cop covering a foot post. He gestured to several males loitering on a stoop down the block and warned me not to wander too close. “It’s a crack house,” he said. I was shocked that a police officer would think such a thing, let alone say it out loud. “We’re the police,” I responded. “If we don’t walk down there who the hell will?” His answer was simple: ”Not me.” As I watched him walk away, I couldn’t help but feel angry.

I marched down the block with Sarge and stood in front of the house. By the time I finished my cigarette, the crack slingers and their corner boys had slithered away.

But that moment stuck with me. I didn’t understand the cop’s attitude then, but I get it now. He had no leadership, direction, or sense of mission. The city was on the cusp of a crack epidemic that would claim the lives of 1,500 people that year in the five boroughs.

By 1988, the number of murders climbed toward 2,000 – a far cry from the 400 or so homicides the city is on pace for this year. The streets were in chaos. Time’s Square was infested with crack dealers, crooks, and smut shops. Wolf packs of young thugs rampaged through the city streets and subways, robbing tourists and terrorizing residents.

Luxury Hotels were turned into “homeless” shelters and Section 8 housing. The subways were over-run with vagrants, and the mentally ill were living all over the streets. Graffiti was everywhere. Squeegee men controlled intersections at the bridges entering the city. The project playgrounds and street corners belonged to the drug dealers. It seemed hopeless and none of the politicians or police brass seemed to have a plan to stop it. Sound familiar?

Detective Lieutenant Jack Maple

Around that time, in a Transit Police satellite office on Vesey Street in lower Manhattan, a brilliant, tough, fearless Detective Lieutenant named Jack Maple was creating a Unit called the Repeat Offender Robbery Strike Force (RORSF) that would revolutionize crime fighting in the city and across the country. Maple’s idea was to map crime, identify robbery patterns in the transit system, and then proactively allocate resources to those specific areas to catch robbers in the act or fleeing from the scene. The results were astounding.

In three short years, Wolf Pack Robberies (robberies involving four or more suspects) went from 1,200 a year in the subway to less than 200. Token Booth robberies, the subway version of a bank robbery, went from 120 a year to 12. Across the board, violent crime in the subways fell in ways never imagined. It was the birth of a crime-fighting tool called COMPSTAT.

Giuliani, Bratton, And Maple

When Rudy Giuliani was elected the 107th mayor in 1994, Transit Police Chief William Bratton and Maple took their concept and the results to City Hall. Giuliani was so impressed, he made Bratton the NYPD’s next police commissioner and Maple his right hand man as deputy commissioner of operations. 

Together they would implement COMPSTAT across the NYPD and transform a reactionary force of 38,000 cops into a proactive army with a specific mission to attack high crime areas with a zero tolerance crime policy intent on restoring a sense of law and order to the streets. The result was violent criminals being taken off the streets in record numbers and tens of thousands of lives being saved.

By 2002, the year I retired from the NYPD, the murder rate along with most other major crime would crater almost 70% across the board. By 2017, murders had dropped below 300 citywide, a number not seen since 1951. New York had become the safest big city in the country. 

That Was Then, This Is Now

The violence we saw back in the 80s and 90s is eerily similar to what we see happening today. Crime is up dramatically in 76 of New York City’s 77 precincts, except this time the violence is not fueled by drug dealers slinging crack. It’s fueled by a corrupt and irresponsible media, and progressive politicians slinging anti-police rhetoric. Meanwhile, policies are enacted that handcuff officers from enforcing the law, and thousands of violent criminals are released back into our most vulnerable neighborhoods. 

Rudy Giuliani, a Republican who was tough on crime, was elected mayor in a navy blue state. Regardless of what people may say about him today, he worked 20 hours a day, seven days a week to clean up the city. He treated the crack epidemic and violent crime like a crisis. He put criminals on notice, making it clear the city would no longer tolerate chaos and disorder on the streets. He gave the police department a clear mission, and then surrounded himself with competent people to help him execute it.

Adams And Sewell

Eight months into his administration, Mayor Eric Adams has failed to do anything beyond offering a lot of tough talk. He spends too much time partying in the Hamptons and rubbing elbows with celebrities in NYC nightclubs and largely ignores a burgeoning crisis that threatens to cripple the city for years to come. His answer to violent crime is to prohibit police officers from congregating in public. And as the situation spirals out of control, where is Adams’ Police Commissioner Keechant Sewell? At times, it’s as if Adams is trying to be the mayor and police commissioner. He is failing miserably at both.

It’s time for the commissioner to step down. She is clearly not up to the task. Running the NYPD is the most coveted and difficult job in policing. When Adams publicly announced he would not consider anyone but a woman as his police commissioner, a blatant act of discrimination, he eliminated a large pool of more qualified and experienced candidates from many different backgrounds.

Real change starts with you, the citizen. You must not sit back in fear, ignorance, or indifference while people are being attacked with hatchets at ATMs or shoved onto the subway tracks, and children are being struck down in a hail of gunfire. You have to get up off the couch, go to your churches, community, and school board meetings, take the gloves off, and demand change.

Call out your precinct captains, district attorneys, and political leaders about your failing schools, out of control crime, and insane policies like bail reform. Speak out against defunding the police. The murders of young black and brown men in inner city neighborhoods can no longer be accepted as normal and should be dealt with as if it were happening on the ritzy Upper East Side of Manhattan. Get involved. Vote the bums out who have been promising you rainbows and unicorns and giving you nothing but substandard education, crime, and poverty.

Let Them Know

The Police Benevolent Association (PBA) has done a good job of sticking up for its membership, but more needs to be done. The safety of the rank and file is non-negotiable. Right now they cannot safely do their jobs. The union needs to fight. Expose these moronic politicians and their insane policies on TV, podcasts, and on social media every day. Be relentless. Let people hear stories from victims and their families. Police officers on the street have to win back the hearts and minds of the people in the inner city by targeting criminals and not the hard working families who are the real victims of the bail reform, anti-police, defund crowd. They have to know we’re on their side.

As police officers, we swear an oath to protect and serve. I understand the reluctance to do that in today’s climate. But it’s our job. We can’t stand by while elected officials make a mockery of us. Police officers can’t retreat from a bucket of water being poured over their heads or run away when bricks or fireworks are fired at their police cars. We can’t be afraid to do our jobs.

The PBA needs to use its political clout and every resource available to take the handcuffs off of our officers. COMPSTAT works, but not without the backing of city politicians, police brass, and the public.

We need serious, courageous leadership in the city and state government to take the streets back from criminals and return them to hard working, law-abiding citizens. Real change can happen and I have witnessed it before. It won’t be easy and it won’t happen overnight. I saw it with my own eyes. 

It all starts with you at the ballot box.

John Dove is a retired NYPD Detective Lieutenant and the former co-executive producer of CSI-NY starring Gary Sinise.

The views expressed in this piece are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire. 

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The Daily Wire   >  Read   >  I Was An NYPD Officer In The 80s. Here’s How We Strategically Lowered Crime Rates In Less Than A Decade.