Precision in Practice

Precision in Practice

John Jay and the NYPD crime reduction connection

by Keith Nelson Jr.

New York City is safer because the New York City Police Department (NYPD) is practicing “precision policing.” Major felony offenses have decreased every year since 2013 resulting in a 13.9 percent reduction over that time span, according to NYPD crime data. Over that same time period, the number of stops the NYPD reported dropped from 191,851 in 2013, to under 12,000 stops in 2018. This methodology of precision policing was developed through a close collaboration between the NYPD, John Jay alumni and research centers, and community involvement.


Number of reported crimesPrecision policing, a law enforcement style introduced to the NYPD by former Commissioner William Bratton between 2014-2016, helps reduce crime by not only using data analysis to focus on who is committing violent crimes in the communities, but also locating who in the community can help. One of the most effective precision policing collaborations between John Jay and the NYPD to reduce crime over the last five years has unequivocally been the Ceasefire program.


Ceasefire is an intervention program in which the NYPD works to prevent violence by having meetings with members of gangs and crews on ways to curb violence. John Jay’s research center, the National Network for Safe Communities (NNSC), designed and helped launch the program in December 2014, with the understanding that “homicide is overwhelmingly associated with small numbers of very active street groups,” says David Kennedy, Director of the NNSC and Criminal Justice Professor at John Jay.


“Homicide is overwhelmingly associated with small numbers of very active street Groups.”
—David Kennedy, NNSC


As part of Ceasefire, the NYPD and the NNSC involve local and federal prosecutors, probation and parole officers, federal agents, community figures, social service providers, and outreach workers. But, Kennedy believes that some of the most effective contributors in the Ceasefire program are community members. “The most powerful figures in the Ceasefire program are the mothers of children who have lost their lives. There is absolutely nobody who has the standing, with respect to these issues, that these mothers have,” Kennedy asserts. “I have regularly seen them reduce rooms of what are often the highest risk and most active people in an entire city to tears when talking about what it has meant to them and their families to lose their children.”


The efficacy of Ceasefire has been undeniable. The 75th precinct in East New York, Brooklyn was once one of the most violent areas in the City, accounting for 12,000 serious crimes in 1990 and more than five percent of all murders in the City in 2011. Since 2015, the first full year Ceasefire was implemented in the precinct, murders dropped by 66 percent. In fact, the five precincts with the largest drops in crime in 2018 all had Ceasefire programs deployed. As a result, the NYPD plans to expand Ceasefire to more precincts.


Kennedy has worked with police departments around crime reduction initiatives for more than 20 years and considers the NYPD “the most sophisticated, purposeful, and driven police department in the world.” With that sophistication, the NYPD entered a new era of data-driven analysis, ensuring that their precision strategies were making the right impact on communities. As the NYPD was making that shift, John Jay research centers were integral partners, offering key insights to support the transition.


The Data Collective for Justice (DCJ), formerly known as the Misdemeanor Justice Project, started gathering data in 2014 after they noticed that there was no real analysis of what lower-level enforcement looked like in the City. “The impetus really came from former John Jay President Jeremy Travis and the current DCJ Director Preeti Chauhan, recognizing the need for this data and analysis,” says Kerry Mulligan, DCJ Project Director.


In April 2015, the DCJ presented a deeper look into lower-level enforcement by releasing a report studying trends related to the issuance of criminal summonses for low-level offenses between 2003-2013. The DCJ worked closely with the Office of Court Administration to help make sense of the administrative summons data. Their report highlighted public consumption of alcohol, public urination, and park offenses as three of the top five charges for which criminal summonses were issued. In May 2016, the New York City Council passed the Criminal Justice Reform Act which reduces penalties for those three offenses to civil summons and monetary fines, unless extenuating circumstances existed.
Sergeant Adolfo Enciso ’19 assisting a woman in the Bronx.
Sergeant Adolfo Enciso ’19 assisting a woman in the Bronx.
“The report was an important piece of information that the City used, especially the City Council and others involved in the reform effort, in identifying what offenses will be included in the Criminal Justice Reform Act,” Mulligan says.


Just like with Ceasefire, the NYPD and the DCJ collaboration to find specific offenses to target for reformation had immediate and overwhelmingly positive results. By October 1, 2017, a little over a year after the Criminal Justice Reform Act was passed into law, police only issued 4,370 criminal summonses for offenses covered in the Act, according to data provided by the City. That’s an astounding 92 percent drop from the more than 55,000 criminal summonses issued during the same time span the previous year. There are success stories like this in almost every precinct thanks to a combined effort from the communities, the data presented by John Jay research centers, and NYPD members—many of whom are John Jay alumni—to achieve these historic crime reductions.


Deputy Inspector Brian J. Bohannon Jr. ’18 represents one of those success stories. The Deputy Inspector became the Commanding Officer of the 106th Precinct in October 2016. His first two full years saw back-to-back historic drops in major felony offenses from 1,345 in 2016, to 1,271 in 2017, and 1,183 in 2018. That represents a 12 percent drop in major felony offenses in his precinct. Bohannon attributes the decrease to the Neighborhood Coordinating Officer (NCO) Program which the precinct joined in July 2017.


“The most powerful figures in the Ceasefire Program are the mothers of children that have lost their lives.”
—David Kennedy, NNSC


The NCO Program is a shining example of the virtues of precision policing. As part of the NCO program, designated neighborhood police officers integrate themselves within the community by attending meetings, visiting schools, and talking with residents about issues facing the neighborhood, while also offering a more immediate response to reported incidents. Bohannon was better informed on precisely where and how to deploy his neighborhood police officers thanks to what he learned at John Jay’s NYPD Executive Master’s Program. “In the program we learned about ‘hotspot policing,’ and that’s something I try to do on a daily basis in my precinct,” says Bohannon.
police officer pushing an elderly woman in wheelchair
Police Officer Carina Salazar ’09 helping a senior home.


The John Jay NYPD Executive Master’s Program that helped Deputy Inspector Bohannon better serve his community is a 30-credit program for individuals in the NYPD with a ranking of Captain or higher—individuals who have some of the most influence on how crime is tackled in the City. The program is one of the numerous ways John Jay works to ensure the people keeping New York City safe are equipped with the right knowledge and expertise to effectively police. The inaugural program started in January 2017. The police officers in the program learn about alternatives to incarceration, evaluation of police initiatives on crime reduction, and strategies on how to better serve the community.


The collaborative efforts such as the Executive Master’s Program, Ceasefire, and other crime reduction initiatives between John Jay and the NYPD, have had tangible results on the community and show the efficacy of precision policing. With John Jay’s innovative programs, the NYPD’s leadership, and community involvement, our City has seen the most historic crime reduction streak.


“There are other places that teach criminal justice and are first-rate research institutions,” says Kennedy. “But there are very few places that are equally serious about intellectual rigor and practice. I think John Jay’s niche is unique, and the role that it plays in New York City is very important.” That’s precisely right.