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Queens Chronicle

Mayor: Crime down, and so are lockups

Bloomberg touts city’s alternatives to incarceration at Jamaica visit

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Posted: Thursday, January 2, 2014 10:30 am | Updated: 11:22 am, Thu Jan 9, 2014.

Mayor Bloomberg is famous for boasting of the city’s success in lowering crime during his 12 years in office.

And last week, he said it has occurred with a hand-in-hand drop in the city’s rate of incarceration for crime.

“New York City has not only kept our city safer; we’ve done so while locking fewer people up,” Bloomberg said during a visit to the South Jamaica Neighborhood Opportunity Network on Jamaica Avenue.

“While crime has decreased in our city, so has incarceration – through the end of last year New York City’s incarceration rate was 30 percent below that of the nation’s,” he added. “That success is neither accident nor coincidence: it’s the product of a coordinated focus across our entire criminal justice system.”

Bloomberg’s visit was intended partially to announce the selection of community service providers to operate a court-based Intervention Resource Team, which will match defendants suffering from mental health problems with individualized programs of services and supervision.

A statement from the Mayor’s Office said the aim is “providing treatment and reducing incarceration while improving safety and further lowering crime.” A self-proclaimed numbers guy, Bloomberg’s office buttressed his boast with the ever-present data.

The city’s incarceration rate in 2012 was down 36 percent from 2001. During the same period, the national rate went up 3 percent. During that same period, the number of inmates sentenced by New York City courts fell from 56,370 to 37,142, a drop of 34 percent. The population in city jails has dropped 18 percent between 2001 and 2012, from 1,490 to 11,827.

In 2012 alone, the Mayor’s Office said, the city’s incarceration rate was 30 percent below the national rate.

Administration officials pointed to several factors, including a 56-percent decrease in felony drug offenders between 2004 and 2011, thanks to alternative programs for substance abusers and misdemeanor offenders.

Vincent Schiraldi, commissioner of the Department of Probation, credited initiatives within his department, such as moving probation officers from courthouses to neighborhood locations where they can directly link clients with community-based social service, education, and job-training programs.

The program is called the Neighborhood Opportunity Network, or NeON.

“I’m proud to report that the early results are promising,” Schiraldi said of the two-year-old program. “The re-arrest rate for ... clients who are 16 to 24 years old is nearly 23 percent lower than it is for clients of the same age who don’t report to a NeON.”

The Intervention Resource Team will coordinate its efforts with the city’s Department of Health in an effort to get those who need services the necessary assistance before matters become critical.

They also are coordinating services by assessing the needs of inmates coming up for release in an effort to cut down on recidivism.

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