NEW YORK - New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio described a sharp decline in arrests and court summonses in the two weeks since two policemen were shot dead in an ambush as a few "aberrant" days, brushing off reports they were signs of a police work slowdown.
De Blasio, in his first interaction with journalists in two weeks, joined Police Commissioner William Bratton on Monday to announce a continued general decline in serious crime in the city in 2014, which he called a record-breaking year. "I certainly don't think a few very aberrant days suggest anything compared to what you see over the course of a whole year of success," de Blasio said when asked whether officers were ignoring low-level crimes because of safety fears or in protest against the mayor.
However, both he and Bratton said they needed more time before explicitly ruling out the possibility the sharp decline in police activity was evidence of widespread insubordination.
Tensions have risen between the police unions and de Blasio over his first year in office after the mayor, a liberal Democrat who campaigned on a promise of police reform, expressed qualified sympathy for the nationwide protests that began last summer over police killings.
The rift widened on Dec. 20 when two policemen were shot dead in their parked patrol car by an itinerant, suicidal man who said he was seeking to avenge the deaths of unarmed black men at the hands of white police officers.
De Blasio called the many hundreds of police officers who have since turned their backs to him at the policemen's funerals and other events "disrespectful" to the city.
The drop in police activity since the ambush has continued into a second week. The number of arrests across the city was down more than half in the week ending Sunday compared with the same week the previous year, to 2,401 from 5,448, police said, confirming data first reported in the New York Times on Monday.
The number of criminal court summonses dropped more than 90 per cent to 347 from 4,077. "Am I overly concerned at this particular point?" Bratton replied when asked if police were turning a blind eye to some crimes. "Talk to me a little later in the week once I have a clearer idea of the impacts of the demonstrations, the funerals." De Blasio, who has expressed impatience with what he calls"divisive" news coverage of his problems with his police department, was keen not to dwell on the topic. "I want to get us back to questions on this presentation,"he said, pointing to charts showing the steep fall in crime since 1993. "This is breathtaking, the information we have here."