Of all the statistics from last week’s revelry in Times Square — 1 million revelers, 2,000 pounds of confetti, thousands of police officers, dozens of cameras — there is one number that stands out: zero, as in zero tickets for low-level crimes.
No tickets for having an open container of alcohol, no tickets for double parking, no tickets for furry, costumed characters hassling tourists to take their picture. Add in low-level arrests, and there was just one, for a subway-related offense.
And that wasn’t just that night; in the two weeks since two NYPD officers were shot, the total for such infractions was 23 — compared to more than 650 the previous year.
Times Square is perhaps the most jarring example of a slowdown in low-level enforcement amid tension between rank-and-file police and Mayor Bill de Blasio, whom they say sided with anti-police protesters.
Since Dec. 20, low-level arrests citywide dropped 61 percent. Summonses were down more than 90 percent. Arraignment courts have been so slow they have sometimes closed early, and Rikers Island’s jails have about 2,000 fewer inmates.
“They haven’t been on top of us like they used to,” said Luis Martinez, a costumed character on a recent night in Times Square. “They’re minding their own business now.”
On Friday, Police Commissioner William Bratton said he’d concluded that some officers had purposefully cut down on small-time arrests and tickets — and that enough was enough.
“We’ll work to bring things back to normal,” he said, adding that the numbers were already rising. No officers are being disciplined, with Bratton noting “the extraordinarily stressful situations” in a month filled with protests, police funerals and discord. The latest figures will be available Monday.
Times Square was among at least seven precincts where not a single summons was issued — a statistic that makes some people nervous.
“It’s dangerous for the public to know that the police are doing less,” said Madeline Sorel, 57, who teaches knitting at a senior center in Coney Island, a normally high crime area that was one of the zero-summons precincts. “It might make criminals more eager to do crime.”
The slowdown so far hasn’t translated to a rise in crime. That has some questioning Bratton’s “broken windows” theory that targeting low-level infractions discourages serious crime.
But Bratton says the arrests are no less necessary, despite the let-up.
“The whole thesis of ‘broken windows’ is: If over time you don’t address an issue, over time it will create a larger issue,” he said.