Criminal Justice 207
The City That Became Safe
Over the last ten years the United States has experienced a dramatic decrease in crime since the early 1990’s. New York, has maintained their remarkable drop in crime over the last twenty years in comparison. So it is only logical that criminologist would want to study this phenomenon to get to the root of its success. In “ The City That Became Safe” Zimring decides to go beyond New York’s surface success and find the causes in these decreases. Through his analysis of the New York’s constant decline in Zimring says: “We now know that life-threatening crime is not an incurable urban disease in the United States.” He takes the stance ...view middle of the document...
In their survey of more than 100 retired captains and higher-ranking officers, respondents claimed that headquarters had pressured mid-level personnel to downgrade or even disregard citizen complaints to make the felony statistics look better. In response to these and similar allegations, in 2011 police commissioner Raymond Kelly appointed a panel of three former federal prosecutors to review the integrity of the city’s crime statistics. The report has not yet been submitted. Zimring responds to the data manipulation charges by noting that he has confirmed his findings using information from non-police sources, in particular health agency statistics on homicides, insurance industry reports on auto theft, and National Crime Victimization Survey data on robbery and burglary.
Zimring then evaluates alternative explanations for the “New York difference.” He debunks the sound-bite explanation that former Mayor Rudolph Guiliani’s ballyhooed crackdown on criminals in the 1990s was responsible. Zimring offers evidence that the mayor’s supposed adoption of “broken windows” or quality-of-life policing never actually took place. He then tests causal variables that might be expected to explain the city’s plunging crime rates, including: population shifts (such as changes in the youth population); economic and social indicators (such as the number of children in single-parent families); deterrence resulting from incarceration levels in state prisons and city jails; improvements in social and educational systems; and the end of the crack-cocaine epidemic in the early 1990s. His overall conclusion is that changes in the population structures and institutions of the city accounted for perhaps 10% of New York’s drop in crime rates after 1990. An additional 40% of the New York crime decline is attributed to the downward national crime trend of the 1990s. The author then ponders how to account for the large unexplained remainder.
After a process of eliminating other likely crime causation variables, Zimring concludes: “The circumstantial evidence that some combination of policing variables accounts for much of the New York difference is overwhelming. There is nothing else … that would provide the city a big advantage over other major cities.” By comparing felony decreases in the ten largest U.S. cities, he calculates that policing practices specific to New York have been responsible for declines of about 32% in robberies and burglaries, 21% in auto thefts, 15% in rapes, 12% in homicides, 4% in assaults and 2% in larcenies.
Why does Zimring attach such enormous impact to New York’s policing methods? For a start, he notes that studies in other cities have documented the efficacy of two components of the New York recipe: 1) “hot spots” policing, and 2) the closing down of open-air drug markets. He then assigns “maybe” grades to the effectiveness to three other NYPD initiatives: 3) the Compstat system of data-driven crime mapping and patrol management; 4) the...