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Crime Has Disappeared From New York

By January 2, 2013

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PHOTO:All Rights, Microsoft Corporation

The biggest crime story of the 21st century is that Police Commissioner Ray Kelly and the New York City police department has eliminated crime. Or just about. Since 1990, crime in NYC is gone. Car theft, a key metric for crime, is down 95%. That is a miracle of police work! Throughout the US, with just a few noticeable exceptions, serious crime dropped 40% between 1990 and 2000, and has held at that level for the last 10 years. Since 2000, NYC continued to reduce crime and in almost all key crime metrics is the safest city in America.

Why did crime drop... nobody knows! Surprisingly little research on the crime drip has been conducted. The is an interesting study on the "additional" drop in NYC by Franklin Zimring, who credits: putting police on the streets, "actively" patrolling (not just walking around the neighborhood), focusing police on crime "hot spots" and POSSIBLY programs to get guns off the street. Zimring found that the drop did not come from: increased incarceration, reduced drug use, changes in population or ethnicity, or reduced poverty.

Understanding what happened is vitally important, since many municipalities across America have declared bankruptcy, and are looking at the outsourcing of police departments as a possible solution their economic problems. Some municipalities, such as Camden New Jersey, have had exceptionally high crime rates for decades. Camden's political leaders plan to get rid of their unionized police force (costs too much not effective enough), and replace them with a lower-cost alternative. But if the success in NYC comes from following best practices, will Camden's experiment fail because they are focused on lower wages, rather than greater effectiveness?

The financial crisis has created many bankrupt and financially stressed municipalities, that need to improve the cost and quality of their services. For some municipalities outsourcing is their best option, but only if they work with their outsourcer to change their service model. NYC's transformative drop in crime proves that police can PREVENT crime, without increasing court and jail costs. The new NYC policing program may be the most important event in modern criminology. Let's learn from it!


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