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NYPD Commissioner William Bratton releases report to support "quality of life" tactics

Police Commissioner William J. Bratton addresses the NYPD

Police Commissioner William J. Bratton addresses the NYPD executives and presents an in-depth study of 'broken windows' and quality of life enforcement at the police academy in Queens on Thursday, April 30, 2015. Credit: Uli Seit

Stressing that New York City "needs quality of life policing more than ever," NYPD Commissioner William Bratton Thursday released a report aimed at defusing criticism of his crime-fighting tactics and efforts by some on the City Council to decriminalize certain minor offenses.

The 42-page report entitled, "Broken Windows and Quality of Life Policing in New York City," examines the city's handling of arrests and summonses between 1994 and 2014 for low-level offenses such as public urination, fare evasion and public drinking.

The document is a defense of quality of life enforcement and doesn't shy away from the tactic, Bratton told a group of several hundred NYPD executives and commanders at the police academy in College Point. Bratton said he is "doubling down" on such offenses but signaled he'd consider changing the way cases are processed to let officers issue written warnings before resorting to arrests.

"The mayor and I are committed to working on the continuing evolution of broken windows quality of life policing," Bratton told reporters later.

He said he will send a letter to City Council speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito Friday requesting more detailed discussions over possible changes.

Reminding his executive staff about the terrible crime situation during the 1970s and 1980s, Bratton said lower crime rates in the city since have shown that the "broken windows" approach -- going after minor quality of life offenses -- works.

"What people see everyday, all eight and a half million New Yorkers, all five and one half million who ride the subway in the city, all 56 million tourists who visit the city, what they experience everyday is a safe city," said Bratton.

Arrests for most quality of life offenses have dropped sharply since 1994 from about 600,000 to 390,000 last year, the report stated.

In an effort to dispel criticism that quality of life cases give mostly black and Hispanic defendants criminal records, the report noted that just nine percent of misdemeanor offenses resulted in jail time, while only 12 percent drew fines.

About 71 percent, were either dismissed or led to adjournments in contemplation of dismissal or court supervision, the data showed.

Quality of life summonses don't record the race or ethnicity of a suspect but the report showed that the majority are issued in areas of the city with predominantly black or Hispanic populations, where the most serious crimes also occur.

"In New York City there are intractable racial disparities in who commits -- and, more importantly -- who suffers from crime and disorder. Blacks and Hispanics represent half of our city's population, but represent 96.9 percent of those who are shot, and 97.6 percent of those who commit shootings," the report stated.

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