ONE POLICE PLAZA — In the wake of blistering criticism from police unions and the media, NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton shot back at the notion that the city is sliding back into the "bad old days" of high crime.
Speaking at a press conference on Thursday, Bratton pointed toward a nearly 4 percent decline in major crimes compared to this time in 2013.
"As the crime numbers clearly indicate, I'm quite proud of the work of the men and women of this department," he said, calling the press conference a "categorical rebuttal" of criticisms of the department. "This is and will continue to remain one of the safest large cities in this country, if indeed not in the world."
The NYPD has fallen under attack in recent weeks from media outlets and the city's police unions, including a series of full-page newspaper ads by the Sergeants Benevolent Association warning the Democratic National Committee against hosting its convention in Brooklyn because the city was sliding "backward into the bad old days of high crime, danger-infested public spaces and families that walk our streets worried for their safety."
In the letter, SBA president Ed Mullins warned that "squeegee people are reappearing on the streets, and aggressive panhandlers and con men are populating the subways and Times Square. "
"I'm sorry, one squeegee pest is not an invasion," Bratton responded at Thursday's press conference.
While shootings are up by about 9 percent compared to this point in 2013, the city has seen a 13 percent decline in homicides and stands to finish the year with the lowest number of murders in decades, according to Deputy Commissioner for Operations Dermot Shea.
The city has also seen about 1,400 fewer robberies for the year, with a stark drop in thefts of Apple devices, Shea said.
Two other categories of crime were up, the deputy commissioner said — domestic assaults and car theft, he said, with about 360 more cars stolen than last year.
Bratton also responded to recent incidents where mischief-makers gained unauthorized access to the Brooklyn Bridge, most recently when Russian tourist Yaroslav Kolchin climbed the bridge to snap iPhone photos "for fun."
The NYPD is working with the Department of Transportation and Mayor Bill de Blasio's office to figure out a way to physically bar people from climbing up all the city's bridges without permission, Bratton said. The department will also post more controls to parts of the bridges.
He added that he hoped to work with the DOT to move forward "with many more cameras, much more hardware sophistication and we will continue also with the entities that control the other bridges and tunnels in the city."