New York City's homicide and crime rates, already at historic lows, could become "awesome" if the NYPD and local communities work more closely, said the department's new top uniformed commander.
"I don't think you can have policing without involving the community," said newly minted chief of department Philip Banks III in an interview with Newsday Friday. "Police [and] communities are not sub-entities, they can't be, and if they are you will never have the results you could have."
Refusing to use the label "community policing," which he said is ambiguous, Banks said he plans to engage communities to work closely with police.
At a time when relations between the police and some in the black and Hispanic communities have been strained because of the controversy over stop-and-frisk, as well as police line of duty shootings, Banks said he plans to help build bridges with neighborhoods. But the NYPD can't do it alone, he stressed.
"The police department has phenomenal outreach, but it is not a one-way street, it is a two-way street . . . sometimes it is the community getting involved," said Banks, 50, who assumed his new job on Thursday. He succeeds Joseph Esposito, who retired.
If police can get the cooperation needed from communities, Banks thinks the crime and murder rates will drop well beyond where they are now.
"I am extremely confident the homicide rate, the shooting rate, and crime will go in the right direction," Banks said. "You can have reduction in crime, you can have further reduction in crime; you can have reduction in homicide, you can have a further reduction in homicide . . . I certainly think the results can be awesome."
Although the city is barely through the first quarter of 2013, crime statistics suggest it could be on track to have the lowest number of homicides since Dwight D. Eisenhower was president in 1960. Serious crimes also are down 3.1 percent compared to the same period in 2012, a year that represented the bottom of a 20-year cycle.