Zachary Tumin is a law enforcement strategist who runs the NYPD’s social media outreach program. In this interview, he explains ways the Department has evolved in the past and lists several changes that need to be made in order to regain public support. These include a renewed focus on specialized data, a stronger system of community engagement, a more surgical approach to combating crime that doesn’t tear neighborhoods apart, and a utilization of social media, which Tumin calls a “must-have tool for law enforcement.”
Zachary Tumin: The New York Police Department over the last 12 years has made extraordinary progress in reducing crime in New York. It started 20, 25 years ago an idea called CompStat which was the idea that turn all the data that we have about crime transparent, let us see in infinite detail where it’s happening, who’s doing it, gives us the opportunity to then manage crime control very precisely and very effectively and move our resources where crime was and, in effect, bring it down in extraordinary ways. But what we also saw was that over these last 12 years the move to crime control cost the New York Police Department citizen support. It cost the New York Police Department the support of citizens for an incredibly important mission which was crime control. We know that it’s possible to have great crime control and strong citizen support. And we know that it’s possible as well to truly engage police officers in that work.
When you have those three things moving together and when you keep your eye not only on citizen support and workforce engagement and crime control but finally then on outcomes for neighborhoods, and we see, we measure our success by whether people are playing in parks, whether kids can walk to school safely. Then we’ll have success in a way that we’ve never had before. We’ve lost a large segment of New Yorkers. We know that we can get them back and we need to. And we need in order to do that we’ll be successful with crime control when we are able to mobilize all segments of New York in support of it. If we can’t then we’re not going to have the information that we need. We’re not going to have the support that we need. Today’s witness won’t come forward tomorrow if they don’t see the results.
So we’re in a new world today where some of the traditional tools of law enforcement have been taken away from the New York Police Department by the courts. Stop and frisk. And we see the effect on the street corners. And public housing trespass laws have been a very effective tool for law enforcement because we don’t need to ask permission. We are the agents of the public housing . We can use trespass summonses for that kind of control. Even marijuana stops have been a way of control. Those three important control tools are now changing for the New York Police Department and we have to find new ways to assure safety and security for our citizens. To do that we will need to engage and to do that we will need to understand far better than we do the sources of citizen support and to see far better than we ever have before crime as it begins to emerge.
We know now that in some of the hardest pressed precincts and boroughs of New York that crews, small groups of kids, teenagers, have come together, you know, hundreds of crews that are responsible for a great deal of the gun violence in New York. By hearing them speak, watching them speak, looking at them on social media we understand who is doing a lot of the – who is causing a lot of the damage in the city and we’ve been able to address that not by hammering entire communities but by precision targeting these young people. Not all of them are bad boys and bad girls. A lot of them are good kids just getting mixed up with bad stuff. And instead of hammering whole communities begin to work very surgically.
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. By social media. 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. It’s the next generation where we measure our success not simply by CompStat crime control numbers but by crime control plus citizen support plus workforce engagement plus neighborhood outcomes. And we’re now able to measure all of those in ways that we never have before and we plan to so that as we achieve crime control we lift support and we lift workforce engagement and we achieve great results for neighborhoods. That’s really our goal and I think what we can do next.
Directed/Produced by Jonathan Fowler, Elizabeth Rodd, and Dillon Fitton