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Officials cite ‘precision focused enforcement’ as reason for crime drop in NYC

NEW YORK — The NYPD's newly-released crime statistics show that the city just had its safest September since it began compiling Compstat crime statistics 20 years ago.

Generally, that's very good news for the citizens of New York. It shows that innovative policing programs are working, and that one older policing program, that has become part of the national discourse, is not, according to police.

Their success, however, also shows how some officers may now face a slightly greater risk to their safety.

At the monthly Compstat briefing at police headquarters on Monday, it was all about the NYPD fighting crime to near record low levels. Despite that, the first presidential debate ended up being part of the presentation.

Specifically, Mayor Bill de Blasio, who happens to be a close ally of Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, refuted a comment Republican nominee Donald Trump had made at last Monday's debate.

"Stop and frisk," Trump said at the debate last week, "worked very well in New York. It brought crime way down."

Fast forward to now.

"Given the national discussion, inducing the rather extraordinary discussion at Hofstra University a week ago," said Mayor de Blasio at the One Police Plaza news conference Monday afternoon. "The amount of stop and frisk activity is down 97 percent" under his administration.

Paired with that decline was a clear decline in crime in New York City over the course of September.

According to the latest Compstat figures, total crime fell 12.1 percent compared to a year ago.

Murders are down 5.8 percent. Robberies took a 14.3 percent dive. Rapes are down by an even steeper margin, 20 percent.

Shootings, by contrast, had increased 10.2 percent.

Still, the overall picture was quite positive, and the NYPD attributed it to two innovations.

The first is neighborhood policing, a program now in more than half of all NYPD precincts and commands, where officers are out in neighborhoods, walking the beat and making personal connections, according the the police and the mayor.

However, de Blasio added, "With all due respect to, I'm sure, well-intentioned efforts in the past, this is not social work. It's crime fighting."

The second innovation was spelled out by Deputy Commissioner for Operations Dermot Shea at the news conference. "That's the story of how far we've come in precision focused enforcement," he said.

Precision focused enforcement is the NYPD's program of targeting specific suspects, based in part on intelligence it's gathered from its neighborhood policing.

It focuses on stopping the bad guys, if you will, in contrast to stop and frisk, which dragnets a wide variety of people, most of whom have been proven innocent.

"We are focusing more on the people involved in the violence and the crime," said Police Commissioner James O'Neill. "The more you do that, the more you'll get pushback," he told PIX11 News.

In other words, as was mentioned at the news conference, there are now more assaults on police officers. However, in those assaults, police are having the upper hand, the bad guys fight back. But that is producing one other thing.

"This past weekend alone in New York City, just to put it in perspective," said Deputy Commissioner Shea, there were "17 separate gun related incidents where our officers recovered firearms and made an arrest."

So while the number of encounters police have had with potential assailants has increased, so has their ability to take advantage of such encounters to further reduce crime.