Decline in crime puts a polish on the Big Apple

Strolling through Central Park at dusk with your wallet poking out from your back pocket is still not advised, but there is good news on crime in New York City. If the statistics are to be believed, there is much less of it.

So steep is the decline in New York's crime figures,that even Mayor Rudolph Giuliani is professing bewilderment. If the trend continues, the Big Apple will even fall off the FBI's list of 50 most crime-ridden US cities.

Most vivid is the drop in the murder rate. While statistics for most other crimes are notoriously unreliable, where homicides are concerned they usually tell a straight story. In 1994 the murder ratewas down a fifth over the year before. Preliminary police department figures for January and February this year show a drop of 40 per cent compared with last year.

Even the dreaded subway system has been declared more secure. Serious crimesunderground decreased nearly 22 per cent last year over the year before. There were 11,776 crimes on the subway last year, including 11 murders. Since 1990, the subway crime level has dropped 50 per cent.

"Nobody can be sure exactly what is going on", Mayor Giuliani admitted when quizzed on the figures. Needless to say he and Police Commissioner, William Bratton, are celebrating.

"The city is increasingly moving away from its erroneous title of `The Crime Capital of America', Mr Bratton declared earlier this week.As of the middle of last year, New York stood at number 47 on the FBI's official rankings of US cities according to rates of serious crime.

It is a picture that is much different from that at the end of the Eighties, during which violent crime exploded in New York as in many other US cities. It culminated in mid-1990 with a string of violent murders and a front- page appeal in one city tabloid to the then mayor, David Dinkins: "Do something, Dave".

The Giuliani administration points to its efforts to streamline police actions and focus on so-called quality of life strategies by arresting prostitutes, drug-dealers and road-side hustlers.There was a 21 per cent rise in arrests in the city last year. The overall serious felony rate in 1994 was down 11.7 per cent.

Criminologists acknowledge the drop in homicide rates as significant but suggest that demographic variables that have nothing to do with police action may have been a factor. There has been a population decline, for instance, in the 16-to-23 crime-prone age group in the city. Then there is the simple fact that many of those who have murdered in the past are now incarcerated.

James Fox, Professor of Criminal Justice at Northeastern University, cautions that "sometimes things look good but only in comparison to something that is very bad. We had a huge increase in crime statistics in the late Eighties and to some extend the improvement in the Nineties is relative to a terrible situation".

The broader crime figures are meanwhile considered less than scientific. It has long been estimated that about half of all assaults and even rapes go unreported. Meanwhile, as New Yorkers have become more or less inured to petty burglaries and assaults and more cynical about their police protectors, the incentive to report those crimes has almost vanished.

The New York trend, meanwhile, is not isolated. Overall, 22 of America's largest cities reported at least some modest declines in crime rates in 1994.

Some reported even steeper drops than New York for the first six months of last year, including San Francisco, Los Angeles, Seattle, El Paso and San Antonio.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consulta...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consulta...

Recruitment Genius: Production Operative

£13000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Due to a period of sustained an...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Marketing Content Leader

£22000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This role requires a high level...

Day In a Page

Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent