Strength in Numbers

The city has been bleeding blue for nearly a decade now. With new and frightening threats to our safety and psyche, it’s time to stanch the wound.
Police Commissioner Ray Kelly recently told the City Council that the number of police officers under his command may soon shrink to its lowest figure in nearly two decades—to what it was back when people wondered if anybody could govern New York City and make the streets safe. The Police Department projects a head count of about 33,000 by next year, roughly the same level of manpower the NYPD had at its disposal back in the bad old days of the Dinkins administration.

That’s unacceptable for any number of reasons, not least of which is the ongoing specter of terrorism. The subway bombings in Moscow earlier this week remind us yet again of our own vulnerability to such attacks. The NYPD has done a magnificent job since 9/11 in the face of this threat, but if City Hall continues to cut resources for Commissioner Kelly and his commanders, it’s fair to wonder if we are creating massive holes in our security strategy.

Reductions in the police head count have been taking place since 2000, when the number of officers topped out at more than 40,000. The city simply isn’t hiring enough cops to replace retirees—only about 110 new cops graduated from the Police Academy a few months ago. That was the smallest class of graduates in more than a decade.

New York’s astonishing rise from the depths of the early 1990s, when mayhem and murder were rampant, is directly attributable to its successful offensive against crime. Smart tactics and strategies helped turn the tide against the bad guys, but so did the sheer number of cops on the street. As the NYPD added officers throughout the 1990s, crime tumbled. Coincidence? Obviously not.

Today, with crime rates as low as they’ve been in half a century, New York has much to celebrate. But since 9/11, the NYPD has found itself on the front lines of a different kind of war—a global war against  terrorists, who have nearly executed several plots against New York in recent years, including a foiled plan to bomb the subways.

The NYPD has to be smarter than ever, and by all indications, it is. But it also needs troops on the ground. City Hall has to remember that today’s victories in the war on crime will mean nothing if terrorists are allowed to regain the offensive against a city that symbolizes all that they despise.

Strength in Numbers