NYPD Commissioner O'Neill on Safety & Cybercrime
City & State Organizes Informative Program About Public Safety in NYC & Cybercrime
February 6, 2017 / Battery Park NYC / Crime & Safety in NYC / Gotham Buzz NYC.
I attended a City & State program dedicated to exploring the many facets of community safety in New York City. The program started with a half hour speech by the new Police Commissioner, James O'Neill. He discussed his background which includes a long line of successive promotions in law enforcement, starting with the transit police in Brooklyn in 1983.
Background: NYPD Commissioner James O'Neill
O'Neill has held many positions, including taking charge as the commanding officer of the Vice, Narcotics and Fugitive Enforcement Divisions - each for a period of time. His most recent position was as Police Chief, during which time he oversaw the management of the neighborhood policing program. The neighborhood policing program was implemented in 2014, during Mayor de Blasio's first term, with the intent to build relations and trust between the police and the communities they serve. The concept is that if the community works with the police to ferret out and penalize the perpetrators, crime will continue to stay at all time lows.
Neighborhood Policing: Intelligent Approach to Safety That Works?
Part of the problem with past police / community relations is that most of those interactions with the police came with a negative connotation to them, for example as when being ticketed, or picked up for bad behavior.
The idea with neighborhood policing is to develop positive interactions by facilitating interactions between individual officers and individual members of the community, so that if and when the time comes, there's enough trust between the officer and community member to work collaboratively to round up and penalize law breakers.
O'Neill's speech was followed by a forum of four experts who have had some involvement in the governance of law enforcement in NYC. The panel included NYC Councilman Jumaane D. Williams of Brooklyn who is the Chairman of the Committee on Housing & Buildings, Elizabeth Glazer who is the Director of the NYC Mayor's Office of Criminal Justice, and NYS Assemblyman Joseph R. Lentol who is the Chairman of the NYS Assembly Committee on [criminal] Codes. The panel was moderated by City & State Features & Opinions Editor, Nick Powell, who has been covering crime in New York for many years.
Stop 'N Frisk - The Facts vs the NY Tabloid Hype?
The panel explored numerous aspects of public safety in NYC, including a number of the successes NYC has been having with neighborhood policing, which is why the police / community clashes you see on the news are coming from other parts of the country - not NYC.
Needless to say, the job of the police force is never done, and challenges remain, but generally the forum had an upbeat tone due to the progress being made under Mayor de Blasio and Police Commissioners Bratton & O'Neill. One of the changes that's been helpful in community relations has been the drastic reduction in stop 'n frisk, which in spite of what the NYC tabloids purport, hasn't resulted in a spike in crime [see charts to right].
I did a bit of research, and found a couple of charts published in an April 11, 2016 report by the Brennan Center for Justice. The Brennan Center is a non-partisan, non profit research center at the NYU Law School. The two charts shown here graph the significant reduction in stop 'n frisk, while also showing no attendant spike in crime. In fact it is believed that over the long haul the reduction in unwarranted stop 'n frisk searches will have a positive impact on law enforcement community relations, as vast swaths of the populace that were searched with no result, will no longer feel that their privacy has been unnecessarily violated.
Cybercrime - Anonymous, Stealthy, Cross-Jurisdictional
The second segment of the forum discussed some of the challenges facing the FBI with regard to reigning in cybercrime. The panel included Joel Stashenko who is the Albany Bureau Chief of the New York Law Journal, Nasir Memon who is a Professor of Computer Science & Engineering at NYU, Timothy Howard who is the Assistant U.S. Attorney and Cybercrime Coordinator for the NYS Southern District Office, and Prashanth Mekala who is the Supervisory Special Agent of the NY Field Office of the FBI.
The challenges facing law enforcement regarding cyber crime are different than most other criminal activity. For example cyber crime is generally anonymous, more insidious and hence more difficult to detect. And oftentimes the break-ins come through multiple legal jurisdictions which makes gaining access for tracking and prosecuting more challenging.
Budapest Convention of 2001 on Cybercrime Helping
But progress is being made. There was a Budapest Convention on Cybercrime which was passed in 2001 and became effective in 2004. More nations are signing on, as the accords enable law enforcement to move more quickly in multiple jurisdictions in response to cybercrime events.
As in community policing, establishing trust between the victims and law enforcement is critical in enabling governments to catch the criminals. Oftentimes companies victimized by cybercrime are concerned the access they provide to law enforcement may be used against them in other regulatory and civil proceedings. One of the panelists told us that the information they seek is soley for the purposes of catching the criminals, not to share with other regulatory agencies or people. And that the less time between the breach of a system, and obtaining access to analyze it, the greater likelihood that law enforcement can track them down, because in cybercrime the 'digital fingerprints' oftentimes disappear.
Speed of Response Helps Law Enforcement Respond
What's happened recently is that company security has increasingly been delegated to the legal department of a firm, because the company is then protected from disclosures because of attorney client privilege.
But what then happens, because the lawyers seek to mitigate legal risk / blame, is that there's a slow response by the company to enabling law enforcement to do their jobs in track down the criminals. One panelist noted that oftentimes what companies are trying to keep secret [their blame / culpability] comes out in the wash anyhow.
One of the panelists noted that oftentimes the biggest threats come from within an organization. Someone is turned to the dark side, or is careless - resulting in the breach of security. Currently the NSA [National Security Agency], the CIA [Central Intelligence Agency], the DOD [Department of Defense] and the FBI [Federal Bureau of Investigation] are all working to mitigate the risks associated with cybercrime.
They had a third panel about mitigating disaster risk, like from terrorism or cataclysmic events such as hurricanes, but I didn't stay.
Organized by City & State Magazine, Website & Events
Many thanks to City & State, which is an informative magazine publisher and events organizer. Their work seems to be predominantly in the area of government, politics and social issues. You can visit their website at www.cityandstateny.com.
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