Police Succeed in Stemming Felonies

When there were reports of recession years ago and Mayor Giuliani bragged about bringing the crime rate down, criminologists predicted it would begin to rise. When the New York Police Department's 40,000-strong force was cut by a few thousand officers for budget reasons, and then diluted by the establishment of anti-terrorism commands after September 11, again the experts predicted crime would rise.

The predictions have proved wrong. After nearly three calendar years and countless overtime hours for its now-35,512 officers, the Police Department under Commissioner Raymond Kelly has seen the number of major felonies continue to drop, year after year after year even in troubled areas.

Crime figures, however, tell only part of the success story [...]

One reason for the continuing dips in crime, Mr. Kelly has said, is a series of strategic-based initiatives such as Operation Impact, which targets crime areas on a daily basis and floods troubled zones with rookie officers.

Another factor contributing to the overall decrease in crime on New York streets, experts said, is an increase in surveillance activities and self-policing measures on the part of citizens and private companies in recent years. It is no longer uncommon for private companies to "harden targets" as police do by ramping up in-house security, or for small businesses to install surveillance cameras either to nab thieves or to deter them.

According to an unofficial tally of surveillance cameras by the personal-privacy group Surveillance Camera Players, the number of video cameras monitoring public and private spaces around New York has more than tripled in the past five years, to an estimated 7,200 cameras in 2004 from about 2,400 cameras counted by the American Civil Liberties Union in 1999 [...]

(Written by Geoffrey Gray and published in the 31 December 2004 issue of The New York Sun.)

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