There was a time when the City of New York was a very dangerous place. The 1970s and 80s marked a time of rising crime and violence. I know, I became a patrolman in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn in 1971.
Year after year, crime and homicides would rise. By 1990, I was a captain and the commanding officer of the 78th Precinct in Brooklyn. It was a time when homicides in the city topped 2,200 in both 1990 and 1991.
Something had to be done.
Then-Mayor David Dinkins, a black Democrat, knew this and knew that the New York City Police Department, which was severely undermanned, required a large increase of officers. He went to Albany and engineered the passage of the Safe Streets, Safe City program. Under this legislation, the residents of the city had to pay an additional tax specifically for the hiring of new police officers. After its enactment, every time a class of recruits would graduate the academy, I would receive calls from community leaders of all races. They wanted to make sure that their community received its proper allotment of new officers. They feared that the city would assign the new officers, which they were paying for, to Manhattan, the city’s crown jewel, and that the outer boroughs would be forgotten. I was happily able to tell them that the 78th Precinct always received its fair share.
Mayor Dinkins lost the next election, and Mayor Rudy Giuliani took over. Giuliani along with Commissioner William Bratton changed the way New York was policed and the result was a steady reduction in crime. Only 289 homicides were committed in the city by 2018. Giuliani loves to say he made New York City a safe place to live, and with a tremendous amount of work and sacrifice by the members of the NYPD, he did accomplish that. I wonder, however, if it would have ever been possible had it not been for the work and foresight of Mayor Dinkins. Safe Streets, Safe City eventually led to the hiring of 6,000 new officers.
At a time when some violent crime is increasing in New York City, it is not the time to defund the police. If anything, it is a time to increase the funding of all departments to provide additional training. Mayor Dinkins knew what had to be done and so should we.
Joe Maccone of Westbury is a retired inspector of the New York City Police Department.