The Times has a piece today exploring whether an increase in crime will inevitably follow an economic contraction in New York. The whole thing is worth a read, but the best comments are from Ray Kelly, the NYPD’s current commissioner, and Bill Bratton, former NYPD police commissioner and current LAPD chief. Here’s Kelly:

[T]he New York police commissioner, Raymond W. Kelly, said he did not subscribe to the idea that there was a strong connection between a city’s financial fortunes and its safety.

And Bratton:

In the fiscal crisis in New York in the 1970s, [Bratton] said, it was not the overall economic downturn but the decision to lay off hordes of police officers that made the city a “hell on earth.”

New York’s budget crunchers should heed their words, especially since the NYPD is currently operating with 10 percent fewer officers than in the year 2000.

Over the past year, Bloomberg has asked the police department to come with cuts equal, percentage-wise, to the cuts he has demanded from other departments. Meanwhile, more vagrants are clearly visible, compared to, say, last year, at central Manhattan spots like the fountain at Columbus Circle and up and down Eighth Avenue from Penn Station to 57th Street.

If crime goes up, if quality of life deteriorates, or if strained finances spur even deeper budget cuts, the mayor will have to reconsider his across-the-board approach to those budget cuts.

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