There was a time when New York was one of the most dangerous cities in the country. However, in the last 30 years, a lot has changed and the city today is quite safe.
The reason for this turnaround is the new management system that was introduced in the 90s to fight crime. Today, this same system is used around the globe to help map crime, robberies, muggings and measure police activity. The system also holds local officers accountable for their actions or lack off.
The success of the system is now being revisited albeit using newer location technology such as smartphones. Police officers now use a proactive approach and regularly communicate with New Yorkers to see how they feel about crime and safety. The smartphone questions deal with safety and what New Yorkers think about crime and how to improve safety. The police department believes this will allow it to obtain a diverse measure of community satisfaction and help further drive down crime. The answers sent back by the public are then analyzed by a private firm and the results, metrics and trends are reviewed by officers and administration to find out how people feel.
So far the public response to the smartphone survey has been very high. This is a big positive as recently, the relationship between the police and the public have been strained, especially with the minorities. In fact, this new initiative was undertaken after an African American male (Eric Garner), selling cigarettes died after being placed in an illegal choke hold by a police officer. New York police commissioner feels that this approach may help mend relations and offer a better community policing model.
The department plans to get data out each month and tailor their crime strategies to where the citizens show concern. The commissioner feels that getting real time information and feedback from the public can be mutually beneficial and can make the city safer.
The police have been using blasts via the smartphones using the same tricks that advertisers use to market their products and services. However, there is concern by the civil libertarians that this tool may be prone to abuse to promote police surveillance or monitoring of certain people or populations. New York Commissioner O’Neill has assured everyone that this initiative is only to fight crime. Last year, New York City had only 998 shootings, a consistent decline over the past 14 years. Only time will tell if this type of interaction with public can lower crime.