By Sebastien Malo
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Police in New York City will begin focusing on neighborhood policing, spending more time in the community in a sweeping effort to improve relations with residents, officials said on Thursday.
The plan focuses on basic policing principles that emphasize bridging gaps with communities, Mayor Bill de Blasio said.
"Instead of a top-down approach, we are now doing a bottom-up approach," he said at a news conference. "The best reforms happen from the grassroots."
The plan includes dividing police precincts into sectors that align with neighborhood boundaries, training officers to identify and manage community concerns and dedicating time for them every day to be out in the community to build relationships, officials said.
Officers will be given time to meet with residents, attend community meetings and address issues that go beyond responding to radio calls, they said.
New York City recently approved the addition of some 1,300 new police officers, and then faced criticism from community groups and civil rights activists who said the city needed to address issues of discriminatory and abusive policing rather than add staff.
The neighborhood policing plan, entitled "One City: Safe and Fair Everywhere," has been tested in four precincts and will be expanded to focus on high-crime areas, officials said.
In one pilot precinct, over a recent four-week period, crime dropped 19 percent over the same period last year, and there were no shootings compared with two last year, they said.
Also, police response time improved to about ten minutes from about 12 minutes, attributable to having more officers in the communities, they said.
Police Commissioner William Bratton called the plan historic and compared it to a 1994 policing plan that led to creation of CompStat, a system that uses high-tech data-gathering to pinpoint crime hot spots and help deploy resources efficiently.
"This is effectively back to the future. Everything old is new again," Bratton said.
(Editing by Ellen Wulfhorst and Lisa Lambert)