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2019 Annual State of the NYPD Address: Remarks as Prepared for Police Commissioner James P. O'Neill

January 23, 2019

Good morning, everyone, and thanks for being here.

Andrew Tisch — thank you for that warm introduction. And congratulations on your new position as chairman of the New York City Police Foundation. For years, you have been a great friend to the men and women of our police department. The Police Foundation and the NYPD depend on you, just as we rely heavily on the Foundation staff, and the leadership of President and CEO Susan Birnbaum, and Executive Director Gregg Roberts.

And thank you, especially, to the Board of Trustees — and to each of you, the Foundation's generous supporters — for joining us this morning, and for being some of our valuable partners in our ongoing mission to make the safest large city in America even safer.

The collaboration between the NYPD and the independent Police Foundation has proven effective for more than four decades, and our work has ushered in an era of unprecedented public safety in New York City. By making our city's security a priority, each of you has played a vital role in this success — and all New Yorkers are grateful for your support.

I'd also like to acknowledge here with us today: Bill Bratton — who has done so much to fight crime and keep New Yorkers safe over the decades. And the NYPD's executive staff: Each of you — together — please stand and be acknowledged.

Also here this morning are some of our great law-enforcement partners: Bill Sweeney, head of the FBI's New York Field Office ... Bronx District Attorney Darcel Clark ... and New York City's Special Narcotics Prosecutor Bridget Brennan. And City Council Members Donovan Richards and Vanessa Gibson — always strong supporters of the NYPD — are joining us, too. Thank you for being here. New York's crime reductions are due to the hard work of every member of the NYPD AND all of our partners, and these are just some of the leaders who have the vision and the ability to help make and keep New York the safest big city in the United States — through an effective and constitutional criminal-justice system

While I'm naming names here — I want to point out a special member of our NYPD leadership team who has done tremendous work in her time with us. Susan Herman, our deputy commissioner for collaborative policing, will leave us less than two weeks from now to become a senior adviser to Mayor de Blasio. She'll be managing the Office of ThriveNYC, and overseeing the continued integration of Thrive's mental-health programs throughout city agencies. Susan has dedicated her career at the NYPD to bringing people together from different backgrounds to achieve a common purpose. In fact, Susan and her staff developed the booklet each of you received when you walked in here this morning — which details the 101 ways the NYPD has improved our response to victims of crime over the past few years. I can think of no better person to now spearhead ThriveNYC's urgent mission. So, I want to say: Congratulations and thank you, Susan.

Importantly, I want to also speak about our members who have made the ultimate sacrifice on behalf of New Yorkers. All were killed while doing — or in the aftermath of doing — what we asked of them. We asked them to fight crime and keep people safe. And there is no more selfless act than that. What they have done for our city — and what our line-of-duty families continue to endure — will never be forgotten by any one of us.

In 2019, with every New Yorker entitled to safety, I believe the NYPD is at a turning point, a moment of opportunity never before seen in this city. We stand on the threshold of taking our nation's safest big city, and making it safe on every block, on every street, in every neighborhood — a city where every neighborhood is as important as every other, where every child can grow up free of the threat of crime, and also free of the appeal of crime.

We can now do this because Neighborhood Policing has been institutionalized in every precinct, and every public housing command, and as of this month, three-quarters of all transit districts — with the rest coming in the spring. We can do this now because the NYPD is ready to partner with every organization, every city agency, and every person in the City of New York.

Let there be no mistake: We have now come within sight of this possibility because of how far we have come in the last 25 years. And 2018 was a major milestone in this history, and makes the next level of policing possible.

In 2018, as you know, New York City experienced another remarkable year in reducing violence and property crime: Overall index crime is at its lowest level here since 1957 — more than 60 years ago.

Robberies, burglaries, and auto thefts have all continued their downward trends. 2018 was the second year in a row we had fewer than 300 murders — again, less than any year in New York since 1951, when there were half-a-million fewer people in the city.

Our current murder rate of 3.4 per 100,000 residents is among the lowest in the nation. In fact, there are182 American cities with higher murder rates than New York City.

Also in 2018, we recorded the lowest number of shootings in New York City's modern history — for the third year in a row.

Over the last year, we did see a substantial increase in reported rapes.

In the NYPD, our belief — shared by the survivors' advocates with whom we regularly meet — is that rape has been, and continues to be, our number one underreported crime. In fact, about a quarter of the rapes reported in 2018 took place prior to 2018. This historic underreporting is beginning to be addressed in a substantial, and vitally-important way.

As you know, last year we did a complete overhaul of our entire Special Victims Division — now led by Deputy Chief Judith Harrison. We're renovating facilities, adding more highly-trained personnel, and fine-tuning our response to survivors of these horrific crimes to make sure we provide every service and every comfort they need — including placing victim advocates inside every police station throughout the city. And our Special Victims detectives are working to fully investigate both past and current-year sex assaults with a thoroughness and sensitivity that provides all survivors with empathy, closure, and justice. The NYPD will never rest in our determination to drive down the crime of rape, one of the most heinous of all violent crimes. And we, therefore, will never stop looking for ways to innovate and improve our practices in this area.

2018 was also a major milestone in another way:

Five years ago, the NYPD charted a course toward furthering the steady-crime declines we saw in the previous two decades. We deliberately pivoted away from a largely enforcement-driven approach, toward a more precise and targeted paradigm.

The core of the plan was, and continues to be, our Neighborhood Policing philosophy — a total shift in the NYPD's crime-fighting model that puts our members in closer connection with people all across the city. And police officers are using their great capacities of heart and mind to solve problems, where possible, without enforcement actions.

Our cops now regularly work the same shifts in the same sectors. They're getting to know their neighborhoods, their community residents, their local problems, and their local criminals. They are getting the time and latitude to work at solving local crime and quality-of-life concerns. And the result is a more-flexible, more-responsive, more-measured, and more-effective police presence.

Investigations are also more focused, with patrol cops playing an expanded role in gathering evidence and information, and precinct detective squads working in closer coordination with specialty squads like Gang and Narcotics to bring in more and better cases against violent criminals. And because we involve our prosecutors from the outset, we're able to pre-indict many offenders before they're arrested, charge them appropriately, and see their cases through to meaningful prison sentences.

We also support our new approach with major improvements in training and technology, all implemented in the past five years. Perhaps most importantly, we decentralized and democratized technology and data-access in the department, equipping all officers with smartphones that connect them to databases, to the public, and to each other. We have gone from cops who didn't have email addresses or any other way than a police radio to communicate in the field, to officers who now have instant access to a wide range of information and functionalities, and who regularly share their cell phone numbers and email addresses with local residents and businesses.

The short-term results are in and, unlike a lot of five-year plans in world history, ours actually worked. Neighborhood Policing has pushed both crime and enforcement down substantially. Overall crime declined by 14.2 percent, and murders by 11.9 percent. Shooting incidents are down 31 percent. Compared to the five-year period prior to this last five years, the average for murders now is 30 percent lower, and the average for shootings is 29 percent lower. We're not just achieving massive declines in violence — with our intensified and focused investigations of gangs, we're sustaining those declines over the longer term.

In CompStat we've developed a method for identifying patterns and countering them quickly. That is literally dismantling the infrastructure driving traditional-crime categories. Robbery ... down 32.6 percent in five years; burglary ... down 33.3 percent; auto theft ... down 26.4 percent. It may be hard to believe, but there were more than a hundred-forty thousand auto thefts in New York City in 1990. Last year, there were just over five thousand.

On the enforcement side, street-stops are down more than 90 percent over the past five years — even as we improve monitoring and supervision to make sure that all stops are being reported by the officers who find them necessary to make. Overall arrests are down 37.3 percent, and summonses are down nearly 79 percent. Marijuana misdemeanor and violation arrests are down 71 percent.

As we believed we could in 2014, we've shown that we can drive crime down significantly with a far less-intrusive enforcement profile. While arrests and summonses for quality-of-life violations and minor crimes are way down, felony arrests — for rape, assault, grand larceny and burglary — are all UP. And while many misdemeanor arrest categories have fallen steeply, Detective Bureau arrests are UP nearly 20 percent in the last five years.

Detective arrests are based on exhaustive investigations that specifically direct our enforcement efforts — with laser-like focus — on the serious crimes and the serious offenders — who are a small percentage of the population.

It can also be said that 2018 was a milestone in the NYPD's historic 25-year crime-fighting period: The murder rate is a tenth of what it once was. Total crime has been cut by 78 percent.

We say that we are the safest large city in America, and we certainly are when our citywide crime rate is compared to the other biggest cities in the country.

However, there are still stubborn pockets of crime — and especially violent crime — in New York. For example, the violent crime rate here in the 19th Precinct — is one-eighth the rate in the 25th Precinct, just 50 blocks uptown.

In fact, in 2018, there were six precincts with violent crime rates more than twice as high as the rest of the city. The 40th Precinct in the Bronx had the highest overall rate, including the second-highest robbery rate and the third-highest assault rate. The 73rd Precinct in Brooklyn had the third-highest rate, including the second-highest murder rate and the highest shooting rate. Other precincts — the 41st and 42nd in the Bronx; the 75th in Brooklyn; and the 25th in Manhattan together lead the city in violence.

Let me be clear: Even these six precincts have seen huge drops in violent crime since the early 1990s. But we will never be satisfied with that. We can always do better. And we must do better. The NYPD and our city have a moral obligation to these precincts, because everyone who lives and works in New York City deserves to live in safety — free of fear.

And now our achievements give us reason to make the following declaration: We won't rest until every block in every neighborhood enjoys the same level of safety and well-being as the rest of the city. Your zip code must never be the primary determination of your safety. And it's our pledge to ensure that your neighborhood is safe, regardless of where in New York City you call home.

This is our job, and we owe it to every single New Yorker. But this job can only be accomplished in partnership with the rest of the city, inside and outside government. The more than four-decade partnership between the NYPD and the New York City Police Foundation is an example of all the partnerships we must now bring to full fruition.

For instance, we're now beta-testing a new smartphone application — funded by the Police Foundation — that supports our cops in serving as a kind of nexus for neighborhoods and other city agencies — as we grapple, together, with the problems that afflict our higher-crime communities.

In February, we're piloting a new Neighborhood Policing application. It will allow Neighborhood Coordination Officers and steady sector cops to track, right on their department-issued phones, various crimes and conditions — ranging from robberies to disorder — as directly reported by residents. Each quality-of-life concern will contain a brief description, a location, and a due date — ensuring that all complaints are handled effectively and in a timely manner. It will enable our cops to collaborate effectively with community members, affording our officers the opportunity to be problem-solvers.

Further, there are initiatives all across the city working to keep young people on the right track. And the 73rd Precinct is showing some very positive signs in this respect. Enterprising cops built the Brownsville Cornerstone Basketball League, which brings together youth from different housing developments. The officers augmented the basketball games with classes in emotional intelligence, de-escalation, and conflict resolution to help kids control anger, resist bullying and peer pressure, and stay away from crime.

These same Brownsville cops and kids have another innovation, now being supported by the Police Foundation. We showcased it yesterday at a press conference with Chief of Patrol Rodney Harrison. It teaches emotional intelligence through the use of virtual-reality technology. Young people are working with police officers to craft virtual-reality scenarios — writing and acting together — that realistically explore the relationships between cops and kids on the street. Cops and kids are learning from each other; they're building trust, and they're strengthening these all-important relationships. At the end of the day, it's old-fashioned communication — greatly enhanced by cutting-edge technology. And, with the Foundation's help, it's expanding to 20 precincts throughout the five boroughs in the very near future.

I want to recognize the cops I've just been talking about, and some of the kids who are benefiting from these fresh ideas — Captain Joseph Griffith ... Detective Jason Anazagasty... Police Officers Gerrance Zeng and Joseph Galletta ... along with kids Jaycob Martinez ... Bryan Skerret ... D'Angelo Isaac ... John Negron ... and Hassan Dwight. All of you: Please stand. Thanks for everything each of you is doing to make New York City even safer.

Each of these examples represent what is possible with Neighborhood Policing. These partnerships are generating the creative and innovative solutions that will bring down crime in these communities. Brownsville can and should be as safe as Brooklyn Heights. Crime can and should be as low in the South Bronx as it is in TriBeCa. We get there when we all come together, talk frankly, and recommit ourselves to this mission. There will be no sacred cows or side agendas — just the urgent mission for everyone in these communities, and all of our city, to come together as one to ensure that every square block of New York City is free from both the threat — and the fear of — crime.

How we get there is the next evolution of policing in New York. That means continuing to fight — in partnership — for every block, in every neighborhood, every day. And the question is: What can we all do together to advance this noble effort? New York needs everybody — in this room and beyond, throughout the five boroughs — to share the responsibility for public safety. Crime, fear, and disorder are NOT only police problems. New York needs all of our ideas, and all of our actions — now. And that goes for the entire public safety spectrum — from traditional crime to terrorism, to the seedbed-activities that can draw the young into lives of crime.

For this reason, I will soon be convening action meetings in each of the six precincts I mentioned earlier, where violence is double the citywide average. This will include various elected officials and heads of our partner agencies at the city, state, and federal levels; plus business owners, clergy, service providers, and community leaders — the people on the ground who are the backbone of this important work. And I will be meeting with the cops in all of these commands to ask them what they think their police department can do better, and how best we can develop new solutions and get them whatever help they feel they need.

Out of these meetings will come change. Change in how we police, how we partner with our sister-city agencies, how we partner with neighborhood residents, how we partner with all of you — the business and civic leaders of our city.

As you know, our city will always face challenges. Challenges that test our crime-fighting strategies at the most local of levels, and challenges that test our intelligence-gathering and preparedness at a citywide — and even a global — scale. And that important work continues around the clock, every day of the year, with our analysts, our cops, and our many partners on the FBI-NYPD Joint Terrorist Task Force.

The NYPD's Critical Response Command works 24/7 protecting sites and infrastructure around the city. Cops in our Strategic Response Group are at the ready to rapidly respond to any emerging threat, be it an active-shooter situation or other terror incident. Along with our elite Emergency Service Unit, they're all informed by our first-rate Intelligence Bureau, which continues to be the industry-leader in detecting, deciphering, and responding to an always-fluid threat stream.

Supporting these efforts in a way that is unique to the NYPD — unlike any other police department in the world — is our International Liaison Program, funded by the Police Foundation. This initiative has allowed the NYPD to embed seasoned investigators with law enforcement agencies in more than a dozen cities across the globe. This enables the NYPD to react to situations that are unfolding in real-time, and to catch bad guys, anywhere in the world.

"How did you get here so fast?" — Those were James Currie's first words when NYPD Sergeant Edward Lee walked into a room to interview him at a Bangkok airport in August.

Stationed in Singapore, Sergeant Lee is part of a counterterrorism and intelligence network that proved critical to Mr. Currie's capture when he fled New York City a day after his infant son was discovered floating lifeless in the East River.

As I said earlier: This is a new era. We know, for example, that the legalization of marijuana is coming. And we need to determine how and when laws about use and possession are enforced. There are issues surrounding home-cultivation, for instance, and driving while impaired — because there's currently no instant test for marijuana levels in the human body. I also have great concerns about people under 21 years of age smoking marijuana.

We're also facing pushback from some quarters about the definition of who constitutes a threat to public safety when it comes to fare evasion in our subways. One thing is certain: We must always control access to the transit system. To abandon our efforts there would be both irresponsible and highly dangerous. Marijuana and fare evasion are just two examples of the changing playing field.

2019 presents an entirely new possibility.

It is now possible to think about how we can equip and enable our cops to help kids avoid a first act of criminal behavior. And we will prove that when the public and the police work together, we can make positive, lasting change in our society. That change begins when people are safe. And it's sustained when they FEEL safe, too.

Our aim is to keep raising the bar for fair and effective policing in this country year after year, again and again. And we're doing it with the help of New Yorkers in every neighborhood, and with the Police Foundation's support, at every turn. I commend you for your investment in public safety, the many innovations you have funded, and your commitment to the NYPD's core mission. And I ask you to continue to think of ways that — together — we can make every single part of this city as safe as our safest streets are today.

A new city. New policing. New York Policing.

Thank you for your time and attention this morning, and I'm happy to take your questions.


Click here to read the 2019 State of the NYPD press release.

Click here to view the 2019 Police Commissioner's report.