New NYPD Chief Of Detectives Says Department Needs Help From Communities To Tackle Gun Violence

CBS2's Ali Bauman spoke exclusively with James Essig, the NYPD's new Chief of Detectives, about his strategies for reducing crime.

Video Transcript

- The NYPD says combating gun violence is a central focus as violent crime continues to rise citywide. CBS2'S Ali Bauman spoke exclusively with the NYPD's new chief of detectives about his strategies for reducing crime.

ALI BAUMAN: A tourist shot by a stray bullet in midtown. A five-year-old girl grazed by a bullet in Brooklyn. These are the latest in a disturbing rise in violent crime across the city. Shootings last month were up 76%, compared to the year prior.

JAMES ESSIG: And we have to work with everybody. It's not just an NYPD problem. It's a community problem.

ALI BAUMAN: I sat down with James Essig last week, right before he was sworn in as the NYPD's new chief of detectives. Overseeing 6,000 detectives on every major investigation in the city.

As chief of detectives, what is your top priority going into this role?

JAMES ESSIG: Well, I think we've all seen the spike in violence. That's number one.

ALI BAUMAN: Essig has 38 years with the department, and was an architect of the gun violence suppression unit.

JAMES ESSIG: We targeted a very narrow group of-- of very violent people. And in a very short turnaround, we were able to put them in jail. And violence plummeted.

ALI BAUMAN: He plans to use that precision policing strategy in his new role.

JAMES ESSIG: Between 1,500 and 2,000 people who have multiple gun offenses, who do a shooting, who do a homicides, such a small percentage. If we could take those people off the street, and away from the rest of the people, we have reduced that violence.

ALI BAUMAN: So how do you do that?

JAMES ESSIG: Existing cases that we've had in the detective bureau that have been put on hold for the last year, we've gotta prioritize them.

ALI BAUMAN: Essig says investigators must now catch up on the backlog from the pandemic.

JAMES ESSIG: Well, we might have taken 100 bad shooters off the street the last year. It's-- it's led to an increase in crime.

ALI BAUMAN: As a young officer in 1985, Essig was awarded the Medal of Valor for helping a woman trapped when a 35 ton crane collapsed in upper Manhattan.

JAMES ESSIG: The crane was actually teetering off the side. It actually lowered a couple of us down and we comforted the victim and talked to her. Hours and hours later, they were able to dig her out.

ALI BAUMAN: Now he plans to use his communication skills, once again, to better community relations.

How do you work on, you know, gaining the-- the trust of some New Yorkers?

JAMES ESSIG: And sometimes we-- we're in a bubble, we're in a bubble. But I'm willing to listen to everybody. The community determines what the police are going to be. And eventually, we will be what the community wants.

ALI BAUMAN: From lower Manhattan, Ali Bauman. CBS2 News.