New York Tries To Reduce Violent Crime — Again.
Later today, our friend Eric Adams, is going to announce a new plan to deal with gun violence in New York City. The Big Apple has seen a disturbing increase in cop shootings recently. But these aren’t cops shooting the bad guys. It’s the bad guys shooting cops Since Adams was inaugurated as Mayor on January 1st, five NYPD officers have been wounded or killed by gunfire, just four in the last week.
What we know about the new, anti-gun plan so far is that it will involve returning to a more aggressive policing of certain high-crime neighborhoods, as well the deployment of more cops on the city’s subways. There will also be a crackdown on so-called ‘nuisance’ crimes, like panhandling, littering, and carrying small amounts of dope in the streets.
In other words, it looks like the new Mayor is going back to a modified and updated version of the tough-on-crime strategies which were put in place back in 1994 by another New York City Mayor named Rudy Giuliani. Remember him?
In fact, Rudy’s aggressive policing program, put into place by his Police Commissioner William Bratton did result in an immediate and unprecedented drop in crime, particularly c rimes committed with guns. Within one year, murders declined by 20%, shootings dropped by 15%, and the decline continued over the next several years until New York City became one of the safest and least violent large cities in the United States, with homicides falling to below the number recorded in 1965!
Rudy, of course, took full credit for this decline in violent crime. Why shouldn’t he? Except there was only one problem — actually, two. First, the drop in New York City’s violent crime numbers actually began in 1991, three years before Rudy moved into City Hall.
Second, and this is just as, if not more important, the drop in New York’s violent crime rate occurred in just about every large city in the United States, and also occurred in cities outside of the United States as well. How can you realistically compare what happens in a city like New York to what happens in a city like Amsterdam? You can’t.
And even within the United States, violent crime declined after 1990 in cities that didn’t institute new policing strategies or any other new methods to deal with crime. When the Brennan published a definitive report on national crime trends from 1990 to 2016, they came up with several reasons, such as increased incarceration, which could not be used to explain the trend. But they also couldn’t come up with reasons that could explain the decline.
My gun shop is located in a town in Western Massachusetts with a population of roughly 11,000 mostly older folks, because the kids who want decent jobs usually grow up and leave town. Several years ago, the City Council called the Chief of Police into a meeting and commended him because there had been a significant drop in town crime over the previous year.
The Town Manager read a little citation, everyone applauded, and then a member of the Town Council yelled out, “Hey! Whatever you’re doing differently, keep doing it.”
Except as the Chief explained to me later that day, he wasn’t doing anything differently than he had done the previous several years, and he had absolutely no idea why there had been a drop in crime.
Governments have been keeping stats on crime since at least the 16th Century and it seems to be the case that criminal behavior is more frequent in neighborhoods where more people are poor. So, we assume that there’s some kind of cause-and-effect between poverty and criminal activity but guess what? Nobody really knows what it is.
All we do know is that if we find a way to decrease poverty, we will also be looking at less crime. And for all the studies and all the statistics and everything else, this is about as far as we ever get.
I don’t like to see cops getting shot, or for that matter, anyone else getting shot. And I hope that my friend Eric Adams will announce an anti-crime plan that shows some results.
But I’m not holding my breath because if I held my breath every time we come up with a new strategy to deal with crime that ultimately doesn’t work, I’d be blue in the face.
And I don’t like being blue in the face because it makes it more difficult for me to drink the cup of coffee that I’m now going to have.