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by Peter Moskos

March 18, 2016

"Not on my post, you don't"

Thinking about lobbies and public housing and policing....

Take the Jackie Robinson Homes, "an 8-story building with 189 apartments housing some 440 residents." Last year there was an issue with kids raising hell. Residents were scared.

So lets say there are 600 people living there in the Jackie Robinson Home (since many live off lease). Put a cop there. What else are police doing that is more important? To hell with whatever patrol structure currently exists. To hell with the desk jobs and even specialized units. Three cops can work 14-hours, six-days a week. One officer working less than 40 hours a week can still be responsible for one building. And you've still got the entire NYPD as backup. A police officer out of car -- with a name and face, a human being -- this is how you build relationships and solve crimes while practicing aggressive order-maintenance community policing.

From DNAinfo:
A tenant of the Jackie Robinson Houses provided DNAinfo with video Tuesday showing the indoor bicycle riding and other rowdy conduct that residents said has been routine at 111 E. 128th St. since October 2014.
The commanding officer of the building’s police service area only found out about the teens’ behavior Tuesday [December 2015, a year later] and no residents had previously filed any formal complaints, an NYPD source told the Daily News.
Presumably, three months later, this has been resolved by now. But why should it take a formal complaint for a housing cop to know about a year-long problem in a building they patrol? Why isn't there a cop who can say, "this is my building and I know what is going on and who is doing it"?

Police officers need -- and for the most part want to assume -- geographic ownership. I was happy one night to be "Sheriff of Orangeville" (thanks for that term, D.W.). Oh, yes, there was a new sheriff in town, and Orangeville was quite that night. (The rest of 334 post was OK, too.) Mostly I had to be happy with the area around Hopkins hospital. But whichever post I policed, it was "my" post that night. I cared. And also... I didn't want the hassle and paperwork and hospital details that come with serious crime.

Progress and "sector policing" put the nail in the coffin of Baltimore post integrity (@ThanksBatts). Basically, instead of one cop patrolling one post you have five cops patrolling five posts. A cop can't care or take ownership of a whole police sector of ten or twenty thousand people. But a cop can almost handle two square miles and 3,000 people. So now crime is up and there isn't a single officer who says, "This is my corner and you drinking and selling drugs here is disrespectful to me, personally."

Well, back in NYC, there's a housing bureau cop for every 200 residents in public housing. About 500,000 residents in 328 developments and 2,553 buildings buildings. You don't need a NYPD mobile command post with loud generator and overly-bright lighting after somebody gets killed. If there are 2,700 police officers in the Housing Bureau, then there are more officers than buildings.

Do you see where I'm going with this?

Why not just assign one officer to each building? Now many of the buildings are small and don't need anybody. So you don't put a cop there. Queensbridge is the largest public housing project remaining in America. Six cops on visible patrol 14 hours a day, six days a week. That takes about 18 cops in total. But it's still just cop for each 450 residents. Is that too much to ask?

Were it up to me, I'd give each patrol officer a very small chuck of the city. Of course you'd have to patrol a larger area. But you and only you are responsible for everything that happens in that for that small chunk. Everything. We're talking an area of roughly 500 people or 1/3 of a mile of street. Those are your people. Know them. Treat them well. And when residents have a problem, they could still call 911 and a cop will show up. But they might prefer to wait till you're on duty to talk to you, whom they know. It's really not that crazy. And for some reason it will never happen.


Anonymous said...

"Not on MY post" and "This is my corner and you drinking and selling drugs here is disrespectful to me, personally" will be equated to an out-of-control cop acting like a dictator of a building while harassing the people there. I'm not sure that a sense of 'ownership' is desired... certainly not by everyone in there. Everyone seems to want the cops to fix problems but hate any police methods to do so.

Taking criminality or 'rowdy behavior' personally, no matter how good the motives, is a great way to be the next news story at 7pm. And the news report will be: "Cop beats child for riding bike." Nobody will care that some of the people in the building are tired of out of control youths. Few will mention that the 'kids' had been warned and had ignored the warnings. During the segment a mention might be made of the 'child'(16yoa, 5'11, 180lb) hitting the officer first, but more time will be spent on the racial makeup of the two. And even though the officer used a soft restraint technique that left no injuries, you can bet that distinction will be left on the cutting room floor. The parents will show up for a press conference and then go back to whatever they were doing before. God forbid if things escalate to the point of real damage being done.

I think we have come to a point where policing has to be considered as impersonally as possible, for good and bad. And they can't solve problems the way they used to, because anything that isn't "by the book" (tickets, arrests, referrals to juvenile services that go nowhere) will be treated as heresy.

Kyle said...

More crimes, more dimes~

Cops genuinely want crimes to go up since that possibly translate to job security and "to be important" in society.
In contrary, people genuinely wants crimes to disappear (yes, that includes cops and perps especially those with children and people to care for). And by default, a cop is a hypocrite or anyone has a conflict of interest... Medical professionals want people to get sick? Military wants war? Sanitation workers want garbage to be piled up? Donald Trump wants your vote? the hypocrisy of the world is endless.

Register all tenants and their visitors(no registration, no entrance). will perps like it? No. will it work to prevent or solve crimes? Yes. However, poor community lacks the money and intellectualls to help them succeed.

Moskos said...

You lost me at: "Cops genuinely want crimes to go up since that possibly translate to job security." Since that's wrong.

Kyle said...


It should be "Bad cops wants crimes to go..." and "good people wants crimes to..."

Love the magic word of good and bad. It makes the world more like Batman v Superman, Avengers, X-Men... etc

bacchys said...

""Not on MY post" and "This is my corner and you drinking and selling drugs here is disrespectful to me, personally" will be equated to an out-of-control cop acting like a dictator of a building while harassing the people there. I'm not sure that a sense of 'ownership' is desired... certainly not by everyone in there. Everyone seems to want the cops to fix problems but hate any police methods to do so."

That's an out-of-control cop acting like a dictator when he doesn't have a clue what's going on on that corner because he's driving past it in his car every few days instead of being part of the neighborhood.

One of the problems between the police and the community is the fact we're talking about the police and the community like two separate entities. If you come swaggering into my neighborhood from the outside thinking you've got the largest dick no one is going to give a shit what you think or say. They're only going to consider you an out-of-control asshole, and having a gun and a badge only makes you dangerous, not someone to respect.

Moskos said...

You just don't understand.

Anonymous said...

Even "bad cops" don't want crime to go up. That's a cartoonish idea.

When crime goes up, cops have to do all sorts of work and get hurt. Good, bad, and in-between.

Andy D said...

I think this is what happens when everyone talks about "community policing" as if it is something they can implement with a couple of cops assigned to a "community services" unit or "community policing" unit instead of it being a wholesale reorganization of the way that urban cops interact with their community. "Community Policing" has become another BS buzzword because despite pretty much EVERY police chief saying they are implementing it they do nothing but talk. What YOU are talking about is genuine community policing. Assigning specific cops to specific beats and keeping them there and holding them accountable for meeting the people, knowing the people, and genuinely giving a crap about the people. Instead police culture glorifies SWAT and SERT and K9 and all kinds of specialized units. Tactics and "tactical" gadgets have replaced the badass cop on the beat who KNOWS little Timmy (and little Timmy's family and friends) and who little Timmy knows on a first name basis. This keep little Timmy from acting like an A$$hole. Maybe helps him grow up better. And if someone does something bad in that cop's beat, he either knows who they are, knows who will tell him who they are, or knows they damn well aren't from his beat at all. Maybe some cities still operate this way, but none of the ones we see on the news seem to.

You avoid being the next news story when Timmy's Grandmom knows Officer Jones, and knows that if Timmy got slammed, he damn well deserved it because she KNOWS Officer Jones and knows he doesn't treat people hard like that unless they did something to deserved it.

Moskos said...

Yes, exactly. (Though if Timmy is slammed on video, it may not matter what Grandma knows.)

The cop doesn't even have to be a "bad-ass" (which may have too many extra-legal connotations). Each cop has their own style. You don't have to a "bad-ass" to have professional pride and not be a pushover or take shit from criminals. Call it what you will.

The key is to know your area and know the people in the area -- and have them know you. Call it what you will, but it is real community policing. Then a criminal or victim isn't just another "POS" but rather an actual person (even if of questionable character).

What I don't get is why no city (I know of) does this. It's not like it's a discredited form of policing. For lack of a better fall-guy, I still blame O.W. Wilson and his "Police Administration." With regards to policing, every time I hear the word "efficiency," I reach for my gun.

Andy D said...

I don't know how it was in Baltimore when you were there, but anymore in most cities it seems like constant transfer of cops from one post to another, moving them when they get promoted, constant rotation of cops among duty assignments etc is the preferred method. I wonder if it is considered a way to avoid corruption? Like, if Officer Jones in my previous example is on the take, he can really screw up an area, but if he is never in one place for long he can't have the control needed to become truly corrupt? If so that seems like a misplaced idea. Is it a Union-rules thing? Like walking a limited foot beat violates some contract clause? You know I'm no city cop, but honestly I'd enjoy being one if I had a genuine beat and people I could know and care about, even if it was a really shitty beat. I mean, every neighborhood has a lot of people worth knowing. On the other hand running all over half the city like a chicken with my head cut off doesn't appeal. I run around plenty where I am, but on the other hand there are less people to know and I know a lot of them very well. Almost every neighborhood or small community that I police has people that I know, and who know me, and I know who to talk to in order to figure things out. It may not be a foot beat in Harlem, but it is mine and I know who and what is in it.

aNanyMouse said...

@ Andy D
You’re on the right track with your comments on steady beats, esp. about knowing “who will tell him who they are.” A way for you to really make hay with this edge, is to be a source of info or other favors, for those who you guess will play ball with you. If you play some sort of ball with a (somewhat harmless) guy like Garner (d. in NYC), he may be smart enough to see it to his benefit to tip you off, on what’s up with the real pricks.

You may want to go back to my comments on Peter’s Nov. post "The most disturbing thing I've seen".

Moskos said...

Unions can object in odd ways. But that would vary city to city.
Corruption would be an issue. But that can be dealt with as it happens. It's not a reason to not police.

A lot of policing has been driven by anti-corruption efforts. But the result is a bit like Best Buy locking all the loading docks to eliminate theft. Kind of effective, actually.... If that were your only goal. But business know they also need to run a business. So loading docks stay open, some products disappear, but business happens.