View From The Middle
It was heartening to see that Mayor Michael Bloomberg has supposedly ruled out any cuts in the Police Department within the latest budget. At least we know he’s using his head. It’s surprising that he’d even think about it, since the number of cops on the beat has lowered within the past few years anyway. Same thing for firefighters. How can we possibly do with fewer?
While overall crime has gone down, take a look at the statistics on murders and robberies. They’re up — and climbing. In our own neighborhoods, robberies are up, as are burglaries. Luckily, fires and associated emergencies have not hit us as hard as they could have — so far. But heaven forbid, it could happen any time now, and firefighters are currently down to the bare minimum in manpower.
This is no time to cut the rosters of those who so bravely protect us.
Recently, there was a rash of burglaries plaguing neighborhoods in the East 80s section, from the Paerdegats to Remsen Avenue and from Seaview up to Flatlands; even beyond. So, wisely, Captain Milt Marmara, commander of the 69th Precinct, asked Assistant Chief Joseph Fox of Brooklyn South if he could have a temporary boost in manpower in the area. Quick as a wink, there was a contingent of officers on horses — the real Mounted Police — traversing Remsen Avenue and thereabouts.
And suddenly the “crime wave” that had been hitting the area quieted and, essentially, went away with the arrest of four youths who had been scouting houses looking for open back windows and unlocked doors. Frankly, I don’t know if the mounted steeds have gone back to the stables and their riders are back in patrol cars, but residents have said it was a “comfort” to see them in the area on a daily basis. There’s no question the mounted cops were a deterrent. If we’re lucky, they’re still here.
Another example: With my camera at-the-ready, I was at the scene of the capture of a suspect in a shooting at East 82nd and Glenwood last week. There were patrol officers in uniform, a smattering of officials from our detective squad, as well as Crime Scene Unit officers and, around the periphery, a mounted patrol. Once again — comforting.
Recently, the federal appellate court mulled over a way they could let go some people who had been in jail (some more than once) for awhile. There’s really not enough room, first of all, they say, and, of course, “the Rockefeller Drug Law went too far anyway.” It was, and is, silly to keep them locked up, especially since they are (we hope) non-violent. So there’s a better-than-good possibility that those people will be out of jail and back on the streets.
Now I’m all for the philosophy that the Rockefeller Law was too stiff to begin with and that most of those people got too heavy a sentence relative to the crime anyway, but there are those others who are guilty as sin — and they’ll be out there on the streets soon. Too soon. Some will be back doing their illegal thing and, well, what we need is for police to be out there on the streets with them.
There was a time we had 41,000 police officers in New York City. Crime went down, and down, and down. The count of officers now is down to less than 35,000. Although Bloomberg is fighting them, the count will be lower if some legislators have their way.
Is crime going to go up again, like it did in the ’70s? You and I know it could. This is one area where we can’t afford to be soft.