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1993 flashback: Bratton declares war on squeegee men as he becomes NYC top cop for first time

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(PIX11) — Almost 20 years ago today, William Bratton was named the NYPD’s new commissioner for the first time, and he immediately unveiled his new approach to ending the city’s crime epidemic.

Bratton planned to prioritize a crackdown on “quality of life” infractions once he started service in January 1994 under Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, who had just picked him.

The first step in improving “quality of life” was to eliminate the presence of squeegee men, PIX11 reported in this story that aired Dec. 3, 1993.

A rare sight on NYC streets today, squeegee men would wipe down windshields at a stoplight and intimidate drivers into forking over a couple of bucks.

In the WPIX report,  outgoing Commissioner Ray Kelly (yep, Bratton replaced him in 1993, too) seemed skeptical of Bratton’s plan. “Let’s see some policies … I’m not certain how they’re going to do it,” Kelly said.

Kelly wasn’t alone. Anthony Garvey of the Lieutenant’s Benevolent Association commented on the possible error of ignoring opportunity costs.

Garvey explained how focusing attention on smaller societal problems like squeegee men, will draw police force away from “real policing” issues around the city.

But when WPIX spoke to New Yorkers about squeegee men, they said “I’d rather not have someone bother me.”

“They should keep them off the street — they’re a hazard.”

“They’re just an annoyance.”

Though he only served the NYPD for two years, he made his name by helping make NYC the “safest big city” in the nation.

On Jan. 15th, 1996 Bratton was featured on the cover of Time magazine with the headline: “Finally, we’re winning the war against crime.”

Two decades later, he rejoins the battle to keep New York City safe.