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Technology & Innovation

The NYPD Needs to Regain Citizen Support

New York City has never been safer. Drug dealers and muggers no longer rule Times Square, and droves of residents in the Bronx and Brooklyn aren’t setting their apartments on fire to collect the insurance money instead of facing the impossible task of finding buyers. The city has transformed in a generation, and the NYPD played an important role.

“It started 20, 25 years ago [with] an idea called CompStat,” says Deputy Commissioner Zachary Tumin, “which was the idea to [make] all the data that we have about crime transparent, let us see in infinite detail where it’s happening, who’s doing it. [This] gives us the opportunity to then manage crime control very precisely and very effectively.”

But with the decline in crime came greater tensions between the NYPD and citizen groups who thought that some measures went too far. “Stop and Frisk,” which first began to be developed during Rudy Giuliani’s administration and was widely used under Michael Bloomberg, stopped, questioned, and frisked hundreds of thousands of people annually. The vast majority of those stopped were African American or Latino, and they were overwhelmingly found not to be carrying weapons or other contraband. The controversial program thrust the city into a national debate over racial profiling and into a long legal battle where a Federal District Court judge found “Stop and Frisk” unconstitutional.

Now, as Tumin explains, the NYPD wants to rebuild the trust of communities. It has been turning to social media for greater precision in pinpointing criminal activity and to cut out “stop and frisk” encounters, which have plummeted in the past year.

“That’s the future of policing in New York. It’s a future that’s data driven that looks for the support of communities by building up our contacts and our engagement,” Tumin says. “By using social media also to understand the ebb and flow of crime and disorder in communities. Using it appropriately and safely. This is the new wave of policing in New York.”

For more on the NYPD’s tech-driven approach to keeping New York safe while regaining citizen support, watch this clip from Big Think’s interview with Tumin:


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