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?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Vehicle Inspectors / Purchasers

£20000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Trainee Vehicle Inspectors / Pu...

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Vehicle Broker

£12000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Trainee Vehicle Broker is req...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service / Data Capture / Telesales

£12000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Front Of House Team Member

£16500 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Day In a Page

Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

The future of songwriting

How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

Recognition at long last

Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

Beating obesity

The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
9 best women's festival waterproofs

Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

Wiggins worried

Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific