21 years after 9/11: Do our leaders still understand keeping Americans safe is government's first job?

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On 9/10/01, the NYPD could boast over a 60% drop in crime since the heights of the 1990s. Murders alone were down over 65 percent. 

The city had momentum – “the city on a hill” had arrived. Terrorism was something that happened far away, generally in the Middle East.

Then came that day in September, and the entire NYPD apparatus shifted on its axis. Suddenly, the department had yet another public safety mission: counterterrorism. Over 1,000 officers were reassigned to hardening the city against another attack. There would be a steep learning curve.  Something, the critics mused, would have to give. No way the NYPD could do it all. 

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But a funny thing happened: it did. While the NYPD laser-focused on this new mandate, crime somehow kept dropping. It was a triumph of management, leadership, and hard work by the troops.  But really, it came down to a single word: will. The leaders in NYC evinced the iron determination to make sure New York City did not have another 9/11 – and did not slide back to 1990. We could do both. Too much blood had been spilled.

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