Village crime rate highlights NYPD cuts

May 19, 2009 4:08:12 PM PDT
Is there a correlation between the crime rate and the number of cops on the street? That debate is taking center stage as cash-strapped New York City tries to make do with less. Now, some argue that keeping the city's crime rate down requires keeping the ranks of cops up.

There was a vicious beating in the Village last week, in which four men attacked one. The victim is still in the hospital. A day later in the Village, an undercover officer was attacked while walking home from a club. The number of attacks in the neighborhood is up dramatically.

"Sometimes it's raucous behavior as they leave these clubs, and other times it may be people who who are waiting for individuals to leave the clubs," NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly said.

In the West Village, assaults are up 43 percent. On the Lower East Side, they are up 30 percent. Yet in Chelsea, the rate is down about 17 percent.

"The numbers worry me," Village resident Crystal High said. "It makes me take precautions at night and when I'm alone."

Despite those assault numbers in the precinct, overall crime is down in the neighborhood by about 7 percent this year. The question is, how long will those good crime numbers remain while the mayor is cutting the number of police officers on the beat.

Officers aren't being laid off, but future police classes will be smaller and smaller. Back in 2001, there were 40,000 cops. Next month, it will be down to 35,500. Next year, the force will be even smaller at about 34,000.

"Would I like to have more police officers?" Kelly asked. "Absolutely."

Police brass told the City Council Tuesday that despite a lower head count, crime keeps falling city-wide by 12 percent. Council members wonder how long that can last.

"And with the economy faltering, that's a recipe for disaster," Councilman Peter Vallone said. "With the amount of cops we have now, we could easily see the crime rate turning again. And when that happens, it will take a long time to turn it back."

Police know the Village and Lower East Side are, according to the numbers, still safe neighborhoods. But with crime, perceptions are awfully important. And so the recent assaults and numbers are a big concern, and so is the declining number of police on the beat.

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WEB PRODUCED BY: Bill King


NEW YORK AND TRI-STATE AREA NEWS

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