New York's Falling Crime Rates

New York City recently closed the books on another year of historically low crime rates. Homicides, the most important statistic, fell below five hundred city-wide for the first time in forty years, since the city began keeping official records. For coverage, Read More.

Experts debate the causes of New York's consistent decrease in crime: improved levels of economic opportunity and reduced poverty, zero-tolerance, "quality of life" or "broken windows" policing strategies, results-oriented accountability through programs such as Compstat, or the decline of the crack epidemic. Whatever the cause, it's clear that city leaders intend to capitalize on the gains acheived and attempt to push the crime rate even lower. The Mayor and Police Commisioner Ray Kelly recently announced that a fresh batch of Operation Impact recruits will be deployed to ten high priority precincts, including three in the Bronx, the 44th in Highbridge, the 46th in Morris Heights, and the 52nd in Kingsbridge.

While crime rates in all categories are down city-wide, some pockets of persistantly high crime rates remain. Meanwhile, some observers wonder if crime is being pushed from the rapidly gentrifying core of the city to parts of the outer boroughs, suburbs, and upstate towns.

Lots of news coverage has been devoted to the subject. This New York Times piece, When Crime Was Always On Our Minds, contemplated changes to the city's pyche since the days of Bernard Goetz.

This Daily News piece gave Bronx-specific coverage. "When you get a grip on crime, you see neighborhoods change for the better. And you're starting to see it happen." For the Bronx, crime rates have dropped in most categories, although petty larceny, especially identity theft, is up slightly.

New York Magazine devoted their cover article last week to the historic drop in crime. You can view all the feature articles here. Nowhere else in New York City has seen a steeper drop in crime than Washington Heights and Inwood.

In his book Murder in America, Roger Lane of Haverford College puts a historical perpective on crime rates. Murder rates are the most reliably comparable statistics across different times and cultures, because unlike other types of crime almost all homicides, with only a few exceptions, are sure to be considered a crime and reliably reported by victims, the community, and the authorities.