Council Speaker Peter Vallone decided “enough was enough,” and took
action. He and the Council initiated the “Safe Streets/Safe
City Program” (SS/SC). They then pitched the idea to Mayor David Dinkins,
and the two began the long arduous process of convincing Albany to allow
NYC to use a dedicated tax for a sole purpose: public safety. The
program was signed into existence on Feb. 11, 1991.
SS/SC program provided for the needs of the entire criminal justice
system, including enhancing prosecution abilities, expanding jail
capacity, improving probation services, increasing funding for legal aid
and alternatives to incarceration, expansion of school security and
after-school programs, expansion of employment training programs, and
senior citizen services.
most importantly, the program called for an increase in police officers up
to 38,310. This number was further supplemented in 1997 by Federal
money under the COPS program, which allowed New York City to hire
additional police officers, bringing the total up to 40,710.
a result of the SS/SC program, the work of Mayor Dinkins and Mayor
Giuliani, and most importantly, the efforts of the New York City Police
Department, crime has dropped an unprecedented 60 percent since 1991.
During that period, New York City was reborn. It reached economic
and social heights never before seen.
change is on the horizon. The NYPD now hovers around a level of
approximately 37,000 personnel. The Federal funding which allowed us to
increase the numbers of police officers has been eliminated.
New York City budget crisis has led to the possibility of the first police
layoff since 1975.
York City cannot allow this to happen.
level of certain types of crime — such as quality of life crime and rape
— began to stop decreasing, and actually increased. The public is aware
of some of the recent violent rape incidents — such as the one in
Flushing Meadows — Corona Park — but may not be aware that at a recent
City Council hearing into the issue, we learned that there were over 100
more rapes in 2002 than there were in 2001.
early January, a tourist was viciously stabbed on a New York City subway
platform, an incident reminiscent of the Brian Watkins stabbing, the
catalyst for the SS/SC Program.
in the NYPD cannot be allowed to happen.
I do not personally believe that this is a real possibility. Instead, talk
of these layoffs will be used as a smokescreen to cover what is actually
going on – a huge decrease in the numbers of police personnel through
this last year, the police lost more personnel (4,000) than any time in
the history of New York City.
is due to many factors — the age of many police officers who joined the
force in the 80s — many are leaving for better paying jobs in nearby
jurisdictions and many are able to retire based on the high overtime pay
they received as a result of Sept.11, 2001.
incoming class of recruits was originally intended to have 2,400 officers. During
the last budget negotiations, that class was reduced to 900.
the next budget proposal to be submitted by the Mayor in early February,
an option I expect to be discussed is the further reduction of this class,
its delay, or its complete elimination.
a result — without a single layoff — the City has effectively reduced
its police force by 4,000 police officers.
this pattern, in two years we would be down to a level of police officers
not seen since prior to the SS/SC program.
incoming class of police officers cannot be cut any further nor can it be
delayed. It must reach the level of police required by SS/SC: 38,310.
number is the cornerstone upon which our City was made safe and must be
City can look to other sources to fund this endeavor.
need to be clear about what we need from the State – we do not need
“aid” or “a handout,”
we need our own City taxpayer money to be returned to us from
York City sends billions more to Albany than it receives in return. That
inequity needs to be immediately changed.
addition, the Federal Government must once again reinstate the COPS
funding and completely reimburse the City for its expenses related to
we are owed close to one-half a billion dollars in police straight time
and overtime directly related to Sept. 11. FEMA apparently believes that
this money does not fall into its antiquated “guidelines” set up to
deal with hurricanes.
Public Safety Committee has been leading the fight for this Federal money.
am working directly with Senator Joe Lieberman, whose Federal committee
has oversight over FEMA.
addition, we need money to be allocated from the Homeland Security Bill
directly to New York City.
police force now has the added responsibility of protecting us from
terrorists and no city needs these funds more than ours.
Federal Government failed in its responsibility to protect New York on
must not allow it to fail in its responsibility to make us whole.
if we do not receive additional funding, then New York City must fund the
NYPD within the confines of its own budget.
have scheduled an emergency hearing for Feb. 11 — exactly twelve years
to the day from the date that the historic SS/SC program was signed —
and I invite the public to be part of this investigation.
layoffs and without notice to the public, the City has been slowly and
stealthily dismantling the program, which made it what it is today.
we allow this to happen, the consequences will be far-reaching, and
Michael Schenkler can be reached at: MSchenkler@QueensTribune.com