It was supposed to usher in a dramatic rise in crime. When New York City ended its controversial stop-and-frisk policy, which had given police officers the ability to stop and search someone on the “reasonable suspicion” that they had committed a crime, rather than having probable cause to do so, there were a host of predictions that the city was doomed. A chorus of voices said criminals would be emboldened and have the run of the city. Citizens and tourists, critics warned, would bear the brunt of this new lax enforcement environment.
However, a few years after the policy reversal, New York City is now known as the “safest big city in America.” According to former New York Police Department Commissioner William Bratton, “You can have smarter policing without having softer policing and that’s pretty much what has happened in New York City.” Bratton noted that, “Smart policing entails focusing on who is committing the crimes.” It involves “an intense focus on the 5,000 to 7,000 who are seriously and consistently involved in criminal activity, as opposed to stopping 600,000 to 700,000 young black and Hispanic men,” thereby alienating the very population you need to help you combat crime.
Additionally, the NYPD has aggressively attacked getting guns off the streets. Not only has there been a significant rise in gun seizures and arrests, but also successful prosecutions. The latter, however, was not always the case. According to an article in the November 2016 NYPD News, “In the past, investigative practices made little headway toward keeping the worst offenders off the street. Gun seizures were made, but, in many cases, the evidence was not strong enough to keep a defendant from plea bargaining their way out of jail.”
NYPD, the mayor’s office and judicial officials set out to change that. “To build stronger cases against firearms offenders, former Police Commissioner Bill Bratton launched the Gun Violence Suppression Division…. Simultaneously, the de Blasio administration, the Office of Court Administration, the five district attorneys’ offices and two federal attorneys’ offices launched Project Fast Track, a new initiative providing greater information sharing, greater focus and greater efficiency among the police, the district and federal attorneys’ offices, the medical examiner’s office and a new gun court in Brooklyn, as they all home in on every aspect of gun violence in the city.”
In evaluating the Big Apple’s remarkable accomplishment when it comes to public safety, one thing definitely stands out: It’s been a collective effort. Becoming the safest big city in America was a multi-agency and community effort. The NYPD wasn’t able to achieve this type of success totally on its own.
Mobile has set its sights on being the safest city in America by 2020. This has been an oft-stated goal of Mayor Sandy Stimpson’s administration. It’s a goal worthy of pursuit. For Mobilians, it’s a goal worthy of supporting. In Mobile’s case, there isn’t the daunting task of ensuring the safety of over 8 million people like in New York City, but very real challenges exist nevertheless.
As with New York City, meeting those challenges and achieving the goal of being the safest city by 2020 will require a collective effort. It will require a commitment to the three C’s of successful public policy implementation: coordination, communication and community.
Coordination is indispensable because, as we’ve seen locally of late, it’s very important that various entities involved in public safety are working together and on the same page if we are to achieve the goal of becoming the safest city in America. Getting violent offenders off the street and ensuring they stay off takes local law enforcement and the judicial system, along with mental health officials and other agencies, working in concert to ensure gaps and loopholes that allow the most dangerous criminals to habitually find their way back onto our streets be closed.
Such coordination, of course, requires effective communication. This means institutions and agencies become adept at talking with each other and not over or against each other. It most obviously involves the ability to accurately convey and understand information and objectives, but just as importantly it involves a strong level of trust among the various members communicating with one another. Such trust prevents the undermining of collective efforts.
Lastly, community buy-in and support is paramount. Our local agencies can coordinate, communicate and work well together, but true success can’t be realized without us — the citizens — doing our part. Mobile has many incredible positives to it. One of its greatest positives and treasures are the people who call this beautiful city home.
As our city leaders and public safety officials set about implementing sound policy and best practices when it comes to combating crime, let’s ensure that as Mobilians we’re doing our part to collectively reach that 2020 goal. If such a goal can be achieved in a city of 8 million, surely it can be done in one of 200,000.