Wednesday, December 24, 2008
Along Linden Boulevard in East New York, the officers of Operation Impact patrol the Pink Houses with all the rigor of a military patrol, a clannish band of partners whose uniforms shout authority even when they do not speak.
They tread the maze of eight-story buildings, inspect the interior staircases, aim their flashlights into the nighttime darkness of rooftops and — on a recent frigid night — coat their lips with layers of ChapStick.
The police officers in this outpost in the eastern end of Brooklyn are part of a mini crime-suppression operation, one reliant on money, manpower and labor. They are the tip of the New York Police Department’s crime-fighting spear.
“We feel really proud of the job we’re doing here,” Officer Kevin Martinez, 24, said as he walked his beat in the Louis H. Pink Houses, a public housing project of 1,500 apartments in 22 buildings.
“When they see us here, they feel safe,” he said.
A similar story can be told in 19 other precincts using Operation Impact, the broad anticrime program devised by Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly, in which rookie officers join with supervisors to flood the city’s toughest neighborhoods. By focusing on such high-crime plateaus, the Police Department is poised to end another year with even less overall crime.
Yet a stormy economy is not receding.
Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg is tightening budgets and warning of tough financial times. Joblessness is up. Homicides have increased slightly; after dropping to 496 last year — the lowest number in more than four decades — the city hit that number last week. By 5 p.m. on Tuesday, the city had 502 homicides, the police said.
At the same time, the Police Department, with 94 percent of its $4 billion operating budget devoted to personnel costs, is facing budget reductions of $45.4 million for the remainder of this fiscal year, which ends in June, and $167 million in the 2010 fiscal year. On top of that, City Hall wants the department to find ways to save $285.7 million more.
After the next cut is made, the Police Department’s uniformed force will have shrunk by 4,400 officers, from a peak strength of 40,800 in 2001. The incoming Police Academy class in January will have 250 recruits; the department had previously anticipated hiring 1,100. An additional 1,100 officers set to graduate on Dec. 30 will join the 1,300 officers already in Operation Impact posts — effectively doubling their strength.
But if promotions and retirements create dangerous shortfalls in some precincts, some Impact officers may have to be moved to other spots, Mr. Kelly said. “We’ve had contracting and expanding numbers of cops in Impact, so the concept will remain,” the commissioner said in an interview last week. “But the numbers may vary.”
When asked if New York could ever return to crime levels seen in the late 1980s, he said: “Never. We’d never let that happen.”
Read full article here. [Brooks Holland]