Mayor Bill de Blasio and NYPD Commissioner William Bratton Tuesday credited improved police-community relations with helping to drive down crime rates, even as the city braced for possible demonstrations when a grand jury renders its decision in the Staten Island chokehold investigation.
Overall crime has decreased 4.4 percent in the past year, de Blasio and Bratton said at the Ingersoll Houses in Fort Greene, Brooklyn, where crime is down 18 percent from last year.
The number of stop-and-frisks fell 79 percent in the first nine months of the year, and there has been a 61 percent reduction in marijuana arrests in the two weeks since cops began issuing summonses in lieu of arresting individuals found with no more than 25 grams of the drug, they said.
The mayor said more residents are coming forward to report crime, evidence that police are building a framework of trust with the public. Despite critics' predictions that his push to reform stop-and-frisk would return the city to its crime-ridden days of the 1970s, de Blasio said the city can be "both safe and fair."
Richard Aborn, president of the Citizens Crime Commission, a watchdog group, said the improvements can be attributed in part to Bratton's emphasis to his officers that communities can be "real crime-fighting partners."
Bratton acknowledged that "certainly we are dealing with some controversial issues this year" but the city is "dealing with them successfully, using them as a way of drawing closer."
One of those issues has been police use of force. Eric Garner's July death in Staten Island sparked protests led by the Rev. Al Sharpton. A grand jury is deciding whether to indict Officer Daniel Panteleo, who is seen in videos placing Garner in an apparent chokehold during an arrest when he was accused of selling untaxed cigarettes.
Protests are expected if there are no charges. The NYPD will deal with any demonstrations that follow as they have handled the protests in the wake of the grand jury decision last week not to indict former Ferguson Officer Darren Wilson in the shooting death of unarmed teen Michael Brown, the mayor and police commissioner said.
New York City is different from Ferguson, Missouri, where unrest grew violent, de Blasio said. Only 30 people were arrested in rallies here over the Ferguson case in recent days, Bratton said.
"We're working very hard to allow people to indulge in their constitutional rights, while at the same time working to protect the interests of the other 8 million people," Bratton said.
Additionally, NYPD training in the use of body cameras begins Wednesday and officers in select precincts will start using the devices this weekend, Bratton said. The pilot program is part of a 2013 ruling by a U.S. District judge who found stop-and-frisk to be unconstitutional because it targeted minorities.
President Barack Obama earlier this week proposed funding for body cameras and training to document police interactions with civilians.