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Amid record low crime, NYPD slowdown gives way to more arrests

After weeks of a dramatic police work slowdown in New York, officers have begun making arrests again amid record-low crime rates and new terror threats.
New York Police Department (NYPD) Commissioner Bill Bratton attends a press conference on Dec. 4, 2014 in the Queens borough of in New York, N.Y. (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty)
New York Police Department (NYPD) Commissioner Bill Bratton attends a press conference on Dec. 4, 2014 in the Queens borough of in New York, N.Y.

Despite an earlier slowdown in arrests by New York City police officers following the recent murder of two of their own, crime numbers have hit record year-to-date lows, according to police brass, and officers are now returning to "normal levels" of police activity.

The news was delivered by New York Police Commissioner Bill Bratton during a press conference in which he said police were beginning to “reengage” after a virtual work stoppage that saw a 56% drop in overall arrests compared to the previous year and a more than 90% drop in criminal summonses, parking tickets and moving violations.

"We are still concerned with the level of activity but they are returning to normal."'

The news comes as the rift between Mayor Bill de Blasio and the NYPD remains wide following the Dec. 20 assassination of officers Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu in Brooklyn by a gunmen who said on social media that he wanted to kill cops to avenge the deaths of slain unarmed black men Michael Brown Jr. in Ferguson, Missouri and Eric Garner on Staten Island.

Patrick Lynch, president of the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, has blamed de Blasio for the officers’ murders, saying shortly after the killings that the mayor had blood on his hands because of his seemingly supportive handling of demonstrators protesting the non-indictments of the officers involved in the killings of Brown and Garner.

At the press conference Monday, Bratton said that after weeks of plummeting arrest numbers, he has met with precinct commanders and that police are slowly returning to "normal levels of activity.”

"We are still concerned with the level of activity but they are returning to normal," Bratton said, flanked by members of NYPD leadership. "We are pleased with the fact that officers are beginning to reengage again.”

He said “there are no quotas,” but “based on past experience, we would expect more activity than we had been experiencing over these past several weeks.”

The numbers have begun to climb since Bratton acknowledged last week that there was indeed a work slowdown by officers in the 35,000 member force. Bratton has since told commanders to light a fire under their officers.

Despite the huge dip in police engagement with the public over recent weeks, New York City’s year-to-date crime stats are well below last year’s numbers, which set record lows for the city.

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Bratton said every borough in the city has experienced a decline in crime.

According to CompStat, the department’s primary crime tracking tool, murder was down 16.7% from the same time last year, rape was down 21.4%, felony assaults were down 16.9% and burglaries were down 27.8%

Bratton warned though, “12 days into a year doesn’t make a trend.”

The commissioner described a bit of the larger context of the current strain the NYPD has found itself in beyond the protests over police killings and grand jury decisions.

“Due to the numerous threats directed at NYPD members, NYPD members were reminded to remain vigilant on post,” Bratton said, before running through data on threats directed at officers and subsequent arrests following the killings of Officers Ramos and Liu.

Bratton said there have been 126 threats investigated that have originated in telephone calls and on social media. Eighty-five of those cases have been closed, 41 remain active and 21 arrests have been made. Some of those arrests were made outside of New York with the help of other law enforcement agencies.

In the wake of terrorist attacks in Paris last week and calls by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) terror group to step up attacks on citizens and law enforcement officers around the world, Bratton issued a memo over the weekend urging officers to keep an eye out for potential threats.

"A least one officer must stand outside the vehicle at all times," said the memo, obtained by NBC New York. “Pay attention to your surroundings, officers must pay close attention to approaching vehicles and anyone getting out of a vehicle. Pay close attention to people as they approach and look for their hands as they approach you."