In his big speech Thursday in which he promised to keep us all safe, Donald Trump failed to mention that the NYPD has made the city that he and his family call home the safest big city in America.
He told us from the convention podium that things have never been so bad, but neglected to note that murders in New York City are down 25 per cent this year over last. Murders are down sixfold from when Trump opened the tower that bears his name and where he presently resides.
In 1983 there were 1,958 murders in New York City. The final number for 2015 was 352.
At the RNC, former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani took credit in his own speech for the unprecedented decline, declaring that Donald Trump would do for America what he had done for New York.
In truth, the credit belongs to a policing genius named Jack Maple and thousands of cops who never received a proper thank you. Maple remarked before his death from cancer in August of 2001 that the cops had guarded any number of ticker-tape parades up The Canyon of Heroes but had never received one in their honor.
At Maple’s funeral at Saint Patrick’s Cathedral just down Fifth Avenue from Trump Tower, Giuliani had the grace to credit Maple with being the only individual ever to singlehandedly transform the city. Giuliani calculated aloud that Maple had saved more lives than the thousands who crammed in for the funeral.
But Giuliani seems to have since lost his way and perhaps never understood the reason why crime declined so sharply. He appears to imagine that it had something to do with vanquishing squeegee men and cracking down on quality of life crimes.
“It wasn’t broken windows,” Maple would say. “It was broken balls.”
Maple’s guiding principle was that a crime in a poor neighborhood should be addressed as seriously as a crime in a rich one and that all victims should be treated as if they were your mother.
In other words, that all lives matter.
As a child in a far more modest section of Queens than the wealthy enclave where young Donald Trump grew up, Maple had always envied the kids who had the big box of crayons. He was a grown-up transit police lieutenant when he bought himself one and set to making crime maps he called The Charts of the Future. He used color codes to denote such factors as types of crime and number of perpetrators. He used the up-to-the-minute patterns that emerged to deploy his cops accordingly.
The resulting drop in crime was so remarkable that NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton promoted Maple to Deputy Commissioner for Operations. The Charts of the Future gave way to the computerized crime maps of CompStat but the principle was the same.
Be it with a computer or a crayon, a dot was a dot and equally deserving of immediate action whether it was on the roughest block of Junius Street in Brooklyn or on the most golden stretch of Fifth Avenue in Manhattan.
During the same period when Maple used his principle to guide life-saving strategies that really did make people safe, Trump followed an opposing philosophy in a prolonged campaign against street peddlers, notably including disabled veterans, who had been receiving special licenses in New York since the aftermath of the Civil War. Trump took the position that such riff-raff had no place on an avenue so grand as the one where his tower stood.
“While disabled veterans should be given every opportunity to earn a living, is it fair to do so to the detriment of the city as a whole or its tax paying citizens and businesses?” he wrote in a 1991 letter to the New York state Assembly that was originally reported by the New York Daily News and more recently by The Daily Beast.
He continued, “Do we allow Fifth Avenue, one of the world’s finest and most luxurious shopping districts, to be turned into an outdoor flea market, clogging and seriously downgrading the area?”
Trump was still pursuing his anti-peddlers campaign three years after Maple’s death and 9/11. Trump’s position remained unchanged even as the disabled vets came to include those who had deployed to Afghanistan in pursuit of the Islamic fundamentalist terrorists who felled the Twin Towers, by his account killing hundreds of his friends, though he has yet to name one.
“Whether they are veterans or not, they [the vendors] should not be allowed to sell on this most important and prestigious shopping street,” Trump wrote in a 2004 letter to then Mayor Mike Bloomberg. “The image of New York City will suffer… I hope you can stop this very deplorable situation before it is too late.”
Trump’s eventual solution was to install huge cement planters that allowed people to pass between the curb and his tower, but were too closely placed for a disabled vet to set up a stand selling hats and gloves. The planters ensured Trump encountered no scruffy vets as he came and went in recent months on campaign jaunts in which he declared himself a champion of veterans.
Most recently, the shocking murders of five police officers in Dallas and three in Baton Rouge led Trump to declare himself the law-and-order candidate. He spoke at the convention as if things had never been worse.
“Be more afraid and I’m here to save you,” a prominent cleric summarized this Mourning in America speech as saying.
When citing the unrelenting carnage in President Obama’s hometown of Chicago, Trump failed to mention a significant factor that marked that city different from his own hometown. Chicago has gun laws that are nearly as strict as those in New York, but the minimum penalties are considerably less and firearms pour in from just outside the city line as well as from nearby Indiana, home to Trump’s running mate Gov. Mike Pence. More than one in five illegal guns recovered in Chicago come from Indiana. A single store just over the Chicago city line, Chuck’s Guns, sold some 1,500 of the firearms recovered at crime scenes over a five-year period.
But Trump did not talk of the illegal guns flooding the streets. He also said nothing about the assault weapons that allowed the gunmen in Dallas and Baton Rouge to kill so many cops despite their body armor. One dying Dallas cop desperately tried to remove his pierced bullet-resistant vest so he could treat his wound underneath.
To his credit,Trump told an arena full of conservative Republicans that the Orlando gunman had been beyond wrong in targeting LBGTQ people. Trump said not a word about the assault rifle that enabled the killer to commit such carnage.
Giuliani had been equally silent on the subject even as he bellowed about danger, danger, danger. He had once been vocally in favor of an assault weapons ban, terming the NRA’s opposition to it “a terrible, terrible mistake.”
Meanwhile, at least one of the death loving ones who want us to be even more afraid mounted an attack on Friday at a shopping area in Munich, reportedly killing at least nine and targeting children. More such attacks could easily come in America, where handguns are for the asking and even people on the terrorist watch list can purchase assault rifles and enough bullets to act out the most murderous schemes.
In New York, where Bratton has returned, the counter-terror effort is run by one of Maple’s closest comrades, Deputy Commissioner John Miller. He applies the same tenets that Maple once inscribed on a nightspot napkin and applied along with the overarching principle that all lives matter: Accurate and timely intelligence; Effective tactics; Rapid deployment; Relentless follow-up and assessment.
Even with the terrorist threat, Trump and Giuliani and their families live in the safest big city in America thanks to the cops who daily place themselves in harm’s way, as readily on Junius Street as on Fifth Avenue, be it against violent criminals or terrorists.
Nobody can help but be afraid on hearing of the killing of kids in Munich so soon after the killing of kids in Nice. And we are almost certain to witness more attacks here in America, where handguns are everywhere and even people on the terrorist watch list can buy assault rifles.
But do not imagine that the guy who put planters to keep away disabled vets outside his tower is going to make you safe.
Sadly, we also cannot count on the candidate who sat in the front row at Trump’s latest wedding and gets her hair done just up Fifth Avenue.
Maybe one of them will be smart and humble enough to embrace the wisdom that made the whole city of New York safer.