The following letter was sent to Mayor Michael Bloomberg by Public Advocate Bill de Blasio and Council Member Peter F. Vallone, Chairman of the New York City Council Public Safety Committee, regarding budget cuts to the NYPD:
The Honorable Michael R. Bloomberg
Mayor of New York City
New York, NY 10007
Dear Mayor Bloomberg:
We are writing to express our concerns regarding the City’s proposal to cut the NYPD’s budget by severely restricting uniformed officer headcount while eliminating 350 civilian positions. As has been widely reported, these cost-cutting measures would leave the City with its lowest number of uniformed officers since the early 1990s – a move that will unquestionably put the safety of New Yorkers at risk. From our perspective, this is simply not an acceptable budgetary solution.
The last time the City’s number of uniformed police officers dipped below 35,000 was 1995 (a level the proposed budget projects will be maintained or decreased through fiscal year 2015). According to the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reports, during that year, our city was victimized by a total of 827,025 recorded crimes of which 152,683 were violent. In the intervening 16 years, these numbers have both been cut roughly in half – an achievement of major consequence for our public safety, our economy and for every New Yorker. Sadly, however, we are already beginning to see evidence that these trends are reversible. According to CompStat, the past two years have seen the number of New York City murders rise by 13.6% while rape has increased by 32%. And as the New York Post recently reported, NYPD response times have grown longer every year since 2007.
In 2010, the City Council restored $15 million to the NYPD’s budget with the express aim of protecting 300 civilian positions on the well-established grounds that civilian employees provide their services at a lower cost than uniformed officers, as well as to help prevent shifting New York’s Finest away from their core role of maintaining public safety. In contrast, this year’s Executive Budget takes a 180 degree turn. The reality of eliminating 350 civilian positions will be a larger number of more expensive uniformed officers performing civilian duties at higher cost and sometimes even on overtime. Because City taxpayers will end up with fewer officers on the street while paying an ever larger tab for administrative services, we believe this decision to be unsound both in terms of economics and equity. It remains unclear, for example, how the Department will be able to fairly allocate the impact of this shift among precincts, demographic groups and regions of the City. If there is a plan, New Yorkers need to see it well in advance of approving the budget.
Given these complications and the serious risks these cuts would pose to the safety of all New Yorkers, we believe your office should first consider reforming other areas of City spending before taking a single cop off the beat. As the IBO has pointed out, implementing an “alternatives to incarceration for juveniles” program could generate $12 million. The City Council has noted that even a 5% cut in the General Contractual Services budget would mean an extra $25.7 million. And other less essential spending categories, such as the approximately $12.7 million spent annually by the City on office furniture and equipment, should also be carefully evaluated.
Mr. Mayor, you recently told reporters that this year’s budget cuts will be “very painful.” If so, we have no room for error. The City must heed our concerns and find a new way to prioritize spending. In the mean time, we intend to continue our fight to ensure New York remains one of the safest large cities in America.
Bill de Blasio
NYC Public Advocate
Peter F. Vallone
Chairman of the NYC Council Public Safety Committee