How precision policing made New York even safer


As New York police commissioner in the 1990s, William J. Bratton — one of the authors of this column — revolutionized policing with CompStat, a system that helped track and map crime in the city. Less understood is his second such revolution: precision policing, which he brought to the NYPD upon returning as commissioner from 2014 to 2016.

Precision policing has two broad themes. The first, focused crime-and-disorder enforcement, hinges on a revitalized version of the CompStat system. Bratton rejected the prevailing belief that, with regard to enforcement activity, “more is better.”

The NYPD reduced the number of stops by more than an order of magnitude and reduced arrests and summonses as well, while still reducing crime.

Bratton and his team reinvigorated CompStat, applying intensive analysis to individual cases and crime patterns alike. Every Thursday, staff from several precincts make their way to headquarters at One Police Plaza to explain how they handle conditions in their commands.

By bringing top executives into regular contact with precinct commanders, detective squad supervisors and other unit heads, the NYPD marries its strategy to its tactics. Data mining and case analysis ensure that evidence gets collected, that available technologies get deployed, that new ideas are generated and that everyone works together.

The second broad theme of precision policing: Whereas focused crime-and-disorder enforcement targets the few who make communities unsafe, neighborhood policing works with the large number of residents who make communities strong.

Commissioner James O’Neill has called neighborhood policing the “greatest change to NYPD patrol in more than 50 years, and the largest systematic outreach to New York’s communities in department history.”

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