New York City police horses have begun patrolling high-crime neighborhoods, making late-night shows of force through Times Square, and taking the lead during search-and-rescue missions along wooded urban parkland, the New York Times reports. Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly is increasing the budget for the mounted troop by 75 horses and officers over the next three years, to eventually bring the total to 160, giving mounted patrols a larger role in battling crime. “There’s a reason we call them the 10-foot cop,” Kelly said. “You can see them from blocks away, they’re great at crowd control and they’re probably the most photographed piece of equipment we have. I’m a huge fan.”
After decades of being viewed as a 19th-century throwback, horseback policing is undergoing a resurgence in cities like Honolulu, Las Vegas, and Oklahoma City. Law enforcement officials have come to appreciate the tactical and economic advantages of a mobile crime-fighting force whose members cost one-fifth as much as a Crown Victoria cruiser. One mounted officer is said to carry the punch of 10 beat officers, especially when it comes to making a statement at large public gatherings or on busy downtown streets. At the dawn of the automobile age, the city had 700 mounted officers. In 1970’s, in the fiscal crisis, that number dropped to 40. Daily cost is about $10 for hay, grain, and bedding material.