Beset by a rising tide of violence, Mayor David N. Dinkins unveiled a long-awaited package of crime-fighting proposals Tuesday that included increasing New York City's police force by one-third to a historic high of almost 32,000 officers.
Under a $1.8-billion "battle plan against fear," the number of police walking the beat will triple and major new spending will be proposed to relieve overburdened courts and district attorneys.
If approved, the new police force will be an army dwarfing other urban police departments. The Los Angeles Police Department, by comparison, will have a total force of 8,400 officers by the end of the year.
In New York, more than 7,900 new police officers would be hired over the next 19 months, Dinkins said. The financing would come through a variety of measures, including increasing property taxes, payroll taxes on residents and commuters and placing a 25-cent surcharge on lottery tickets sold in New York City.
The proposal would need approval from the City Council and the state Legislature. But some influential state legislators said they believed adding to the price of lottery tickets and taxing commuters to help solve New York City's growing crime problem could meet significant opposition.
State Assembly Speaker Mel Miller said he would look with skepticism on any tax on commuters and he believed a surtax on lottery tickets "would go over like a dead weight."
In a televised address, Dinkins said: "We are here tonight to begin the long campaign to drive away fear and crime. We will flood our streets with an army of police officers."
At the same time, Police Commissioner Lee Brown made public a 535-page report on police staffing needs that signaled a sea change in the department's direction toward community policing. "The work of police officers in the city's neighborhoods at the precinct level (will be) the department's highest priority," Brown said.
". . . Eventually, the department's goal is to have community police officers covering every section of the city, in every neighborhood and on every street," the commissioner added.
Dinkins proposals came at a time when violent crime has been rising rapidly in the city. In Manhattan, homicides are up 25.3% and robberies increased 19.2% compared to three years ago. These statistics mirror the rest of the city.
The summer was particularly troublesome. In addition to the slaying of Brian Watkins, a 22-year-old tourist from Provo, Utah, who was stabbed to death in the subway while trying to protect his mother from a gang of teen-agers, eight children were slain in the city and at least 15 more were wounded.
In 1970, New York's Police Department received 887,598 complaints of criminal activity. By 1989, complaints had risen to 1,154,101.
To meet that challenge, Dinkins announced his anti-crime proposals. Under the plan, uniformed personnel in precincts will increase from 13,138 to 20,269 officers--a gain of 54%. The number of detectives assigned to precinct detective squads will grow by 67%.
Plans call for increasing patrols on subways, the creation of a 1,000-member police cadet corps, and for major increases in the number of jail cells. Almost 3,000 new cells will be added to the municipal jail on Rikers Island.