Violent crime in New York City soared this past year, despite a growing number of police officers nearly doubling their annual salaries by working hundreds of hours in overtime.
Officers are boosting their $42,500 starting salary to $100,000 a year by making petty arrests at the end of their shifts to bump up their overtime, rather than tackling the crime epidemic which has gripped the city, according to Bloomberg.
Last year, overtime costs alone hit a record-breaking $837 million as New York City police officers logged more overtime hours in the 2020 fiscal year than cops in any other major U.S. city. One single precinct in Brooklyn paid out a whopping $7.8 million in overtime.
In the same period, violent crime soared by 5.6 per cent.
Overspending for the NYPD is nothing new; the department has overspent on its budget every years for at least the past 20 years.
But last year’s historic spending amid a hike in crime has sparked concerns and calls for an overhaul of the NYPD’s overtime system as critics claim it encourages ‘collars for dollars’ – petty arrests that unfairly target low income residents and people of color, while doing nothing to tackle the real criminals.
Democratic mayoral candidate and Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, who has pledged to slash the NYPD overtime spending in half by the end of his first year in office, said he wanted to target those abusing the system.
‘There are officers who will wait until the last half an hour of their tour and they will come up with some bogus collar or some offense. That’s what we’re not identifying, we’re not identifying those who are abusing the system for overtime,’ Adams told Bloomberg.
Former New York City Police Commissioner Bill Bratton insisted that the overtime was necessary and it had peaked last year because of the Black Lives Matter violent protests, staffing shortages and an increase in violent crime during COVID-19 as people lost their jobs and many left the city.
Violent crime in NYC hit record highs in the past two years, despite NYPD officers working hundreds of hours in overtime
About 500 NYPD officers logged over 1,000 overtime hours in the 2020 fiscal year, while a majority logged 375 overtime hours
Most major U.S. cities surpassed their adopted budget over the past decade, though the NYPD saw the greatest disparity between its projected costs and actual spending
In the 2020 fiscal year, 14,430 NYPD officers worked over 400 hours of overtime, which equates to extending the calendar year into March, according to a Bloomberg CityLab analysis of 31,221 officers.
Of that number, over 16,000 saw annual salaries higher than $100,000 and nearly 1,400 had enough overtime hours to equal another full year of pay. In the same time period, the NYPD accounted for 45 percent of overtime costs across all of NYC, totaling $837 million.
The city already set aside $485.6 million for overtime in the 2022 fiscal year, pushing the NYPD’s adopted budget to $5.4 billion or up $200 million from the 2021 fiscal year, Bloomberg reported.
In the 75th precinct paid out $7.8 million in overtime costs. Officers clocked in a median of 477 overtime hours in the same time period, while all of the city’s other 76 precincts had a median of 306 hours recorded.
Mayor Bill de Blasio lowered the cap on police overtime spending in the 2021 fiscal year, but the NYPD pierced it in eight months, according to the city’s fiscal watchdog the Independent Budget Office.
De Blasio placed the cap as part of $1 billion in police department cuts following Black Lives Matter protests last year. The budget cuts ultimately never came to fruition, in part because of overtime costs.
Adams said that the spike in crime meant that New Yorkers were so desperate for a safe city again that they weren’t looking closely enough at how the NYPD extra funds were being spent.
‘Public safety is so important to taxpayers, they basically close their eyes,’ Adams told Bloomberg. ‘They say, listen, as long as we feel safe, so what if you stopped 600,000 Black and brown children a year? As long as I can enjoy my theater at Lincoln Center, so what if you’re spending $11 billion?’
He also plans to cut the number of officers at certain events by 75 percent and closely monitor the department’s overtime hours to hold officers accountable should they abuse the system.
Despite the mass amount of overtime hours and heavy police presence in certain communities, violent crime has still been on the rise
‘Every dollar spent on policing, whether overtime or elsewhere in the budget, is a dollar not being spent somewhere else,’ said Maryanne Kaishian, the policy counsel for Brooklyn Defender Services, an organization that provides legal representation for low-income defendants.
She and Adams argue that New Yorkers feel safer with a heavy police presence, despite the social impact and financial toll it could take on the city’s budget.
He said he would like to ‘incentivize’ precincts to use significantly less overtime hours, but didn’t explain what such incentives would be.
‘There are blocks in East New York that the government is spending millions of dollars on policing and incarcerating residents as opposed to investing in their education and job training and things that make a difference,’ Michelle Neugebauer told Bloomberg.
Neugebauer is the executive director of the Cypress Hills Local Development Corporation, a nonprofit focused on providing her community with affordable housing, after-school services and job training.
Eric Adams, Democratic mayoral candidate and Brooklyn Borough president, said that this pattern leads to the over-policing of certain communities, which pulls more people in the criminal justice system for petty offenses rather than devoting resources to social services those communities need
She said that the police department’s inflated overtime costs take away from the budgets of non-profits financially struggling to provide their communities with necessary social services.
‘We need a community center, we need a place for our kids to go play and be safe, we need affordable housing, we need jobs,’ she told the news outlet. ‘That’s where the investments need to go.’
NYPD officials could not be reached for comment, but a spokesperson defended the use of overtime and said that eleventh-hour arrests have dropped in the past decade. ‘The department manages its overtime to ensure it is utilized in a matter that continues to prioritize public safety,’ the spokesperson told Bloomberg.
But despite the mass amount of overtime hours and heavy police presence in certain communities, violent crime still plagued NYC all summer and fueled fears the Big Apple is returning to the dark days of the ’70s and ’80s when it earned the nickname Fear City.
The city’s overall crime rate is down a quarter of a percentage point this year through October 10 as compared to last year, according to the NYPD’s most recent data.
Newly-released surveillance footage shows an unidentified woman grabbing a victim in the Brownsville neighborhood of Brooklyn on October 6
However, crime is up in certain categories, such as assaults and rape, which are up 7.7 percent and 2.7 percent from last year, respectively.
Grand larcenies are also up 2.4 percent from last year, with grand larceny from automobiles up 14.5 percent.
And shooting incidents have increased 3.5 percent over last year, with a little over 1 percent more shooting victims.
Random attacks on the subway have become an almost daily occurrence in the city.
Maria Ambrocio, a 58-year-old oncology nurse from New Jersey, was knocked to the ground by a man allegedly attempting to flee the scene with a 29-year-old woman’s cellphone near Times Square.
The charges against the suspect, Jermaine Foster, were later upgraded from a felony assault to murder after Ambrocio’s family agreed to switch off her life support.
In September, two thieves weren’t satisfied with the $100 in a 19-year-old subway rider’s pockets last month and cleaned him out of an additional $800 at an ATM.
In a more recent incident, one Brooklyn woman was not as lucky when two people stomped on her head, leaving her unconscious, before stealing her purse and other belongings.
The brutal beating comes just a few days after Maria Ambrocio, a 58-year-old oncology nurse, was killed after a mugger shoved her to the ground in Times Square
The suspect, Jermaine Foster, 26, is being charged with murder
Last Thursday, police arrested a 13-year-old boy in connection with a shooting at a Bronx basketball court that left another teen injured in the knee, charging the boy with attempted murder, assault and harassment.
And on Monday, a 3-year-old girl was almost kidnapped by a homeless man in broad daylight as she was walking with her grandmother and two brothers in the Bronx.
The suspect, Santiago Salcedo, 27, a homeless man, was seen on surveillance footage from a nearby gas station approaching the family and wrapping the girl in a comforter before running off with her, as her 65-year-old grandmother tried to follow.
A man at the nearby gas station soon got involved and managed to stop Salcedo, who is charged with kidnapping, attempted kidnapping, unlawful imprisonment and child endangerment.