As part of our Real Talk. Real Facts series, Maud spoke tonight with Professor Peter Moskos, professor in the Department of Law, Police Science, and Criminal Justice Administration at John Jay College of Criminal Justice. He is a Harvard and Princeton trained sociologist and former police officer. His deep insight on policing and crime has taken on increased relevance as crime rates have soared in New York City.
Maud’s platform for City Council is focused on safer, cleaner streets, excellent education for our children, more green space and thriving small businesses. None of this is possible if we don’t address the issue of crime and safety. The quality of life New Yorker’s enjoy depends on a sense well-being for our families and communities, Maud notes.
Understanding current crime rates can be complicated by the pandemic. For instance, grand larceny is down, but stores have been closed. But at the same time burglaries in Lower Manhattan have increased by 89 percent. And of course, citywide, there has been a significant uptick in gun violence (102% increase year-over-year). And a rise in gun violence matters to all of us, said Maud. “It has a significant impact on the perception we have of our day-to-day safety as we go about our lives. And whether this is a good place to live, to invest. It affects everything,” she shared.
So What Is Happening?
How should we think about the complex issue of crime? A few highlights of the discussion below. And video from that session can be seen here.
Quality of Life Policing
Professor Moskos focused his discussion on quality of life policing and the correlation in its decline with an overall increase in crime of late. And this increase is uncomfortably juxtaposed against a recent history in New York City of crime reduction. Not just in the past 20-30 years, but even more recently.
Professor Moskos talked about how the NYPD has always done its best work when it sees crime as a problem that the NYPD is accountable for solving. Years ago there was a measurable shift where the NYPD, politicians, judges, etc. all saw themselves as fully accountable for crime prevention and reduction in our city. And it was that accountability which gave way to the drop in crime we’ve seen up until now. If leaders don’t accept responsibility when crime rates increase we are not going to see effective crime prevention long term, Professor Moskos said.
What Is Unique About The NYPD?
As the biggest police force in the country, its size is definitely one aspect, Professor Moskos shared. And over the past 20-30 years the NYPD has successful addressed the safety issues communities care about. While at the same time arrests were decreasing. It should have been held up as a model of best practices, he said. We should be addressing issues while also pointing out what is good. “The current ‘collective punishment’ that has come with this ideological shift regarding police is encouraging our police force to be less proactive,” Professor Moskos said.
Often unreported, Maud pointed out, are the number of minorities that make up the demographic of the NYPD. Compared to the makeup of the city, there are not enough Black New Yorkers in the force, but other minorities are actually over-represented as compared to the City’s population, Professor Moskos shared. And even more notable are the number of immigrants, or children of immigrants, who are part of the force. It’s been a path of upper mobility for many immigrants, he noted. And this fact has a positive impact on the communities being policed.
There are so many factors, even small everyday factors, that have resulted in our recent crime wave. And Professor Moskos suggested that we aren’t debating the trade-offs enough. We aren’t looking at the decades of decline in incarceration and pointing out what went right. We aren’t focusing on the problems within our police force and trying to fix them while not destroying what was working at the same time. And politicians aren’t taking accountability for today’s rise in crime.
Professor Moskos shared in the session all the different ways that the “small things” soon become big things. And the perfect storm that results. Combined with a strong anti-policing philosophy and rhetoric being shared publicly, it will be hard to get us back on track. “We aren’t going to get better policing for less funding,” he said. “And, if we want to spend less on policing then we need to get together and make a 5 year plan.”
Maud and Professor Moskos also talked about a number of issues that are of grave concern to downtown New Yorkers, from an increase in street homelessness, subway crime and a general feeling of being unsafe.
How To Change Course
Finally, Professor Moskos shared his thoughts on how the animus being driven by politicians todays our police stops us from addressing what is good and bad policing overall.
“We need to defend cops when they use force correctly,” he said. “There is an element of force in the job – they aren’t supposed to lose fights. We need to show when police are doing their jobs correctly and well. We need to hold politicians accountable for the rise in crime. There are things we can do.”
Professor Moskos is known for talking to people as part of his research. And he does just that with the “Violence Reduction Project” which includes a number of essays from all walks of life in New York City asking each how we can reduce the violence we are seeing right now. Read more here.
And finally, see Maud’s interview with Professor Moskos here. To join our next Real Talk. Real Facts session, look for details on our website and social media.