The New Normal

By Bill Bratton


New York City is on pace for its lowest murder rate in more than seven decades. NYPD statistics show there were 21 fewer homicides during the first half of 2019 compared with the same period in 2018. That equates to 135 homicides through June 30. A large number of New Yorkers, and certainly many of the city's political leaders, never experienced New York City in the 1980s and 1990s. The safest big city in America is their normal. These low crime statistics — these lives saved — did not happen by accident though. The cracks in the windows began to form in the 1970s and 1980s. There were open-air drug markets, prostitution on every corner, graffiti on buildings and every subway train car, and disorder as far as the eye could see. The issues, all not properly addressed, led to more and more windows breaking. Violent criminals were emboldened by the lack of quality-of-life enforcement. Many jumped turnstiles to enter the subway system and prey on riders. In 1990, at its height, there were 2,245 murders. The city lived in fear. To criminals, the lack of enforcement made it seem like nobody was in charge. The turnaround began underground that same year. As Chief of the then-NYC Transit Police, we began focusing on reducing illegal, disorderly behavior — aggressive panhandling, turnstile-jumping, making graffiti, and public urination. By cracking down on fare evasion for example, we were able to stop serious criminals carrying weapons at the turnstiles before they got in the subways and wreak havoc. We were repairing the windows, and it soon carried onto the streets of the city. New Yorkers and the police who served them took back their neighborhoods block-by-block from criminals. The Big Apple we know today is far from rotten. The subway system has never been safer, with six reported crimes per day at an average of six million daily riders. Major crime has never been lower with under 100,000 incidents last year. This year, the city is on track to bring in even lower numbers. We MUST remember to old adage: those who do not know history are doomed to repeat it. It is imperative that the cracks in the windows be repaired as soon as they appear.  Present day issues are beginning to appear. Graffiti complaints by New Yorkers are on the rise, subway fare beaters are in the news on a daily basis, and those who commit the worst violence are not being kept in prison or even being prosecuted at times.  Criminal justice reform has an important role in society, but it must be in partnership with the police who are charged with the great responsibility of keeping people safe. Those who call for major changes — not enforcing quality-of-life crimes, doing away with investigative tools like gang member files and facial recognition, and the lack of prosecution of violent crimes — may get what they want. But, with it will come lawlessness, disorder, and a rise in crime. 

Let New York City police continue doing what they do best — fight crime and disorder.


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