Letter: Why crime fell in New York

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Sir: Your piece about crime in New York ("City Father v the Godfathers", 19 November) perpetuates several myths about my former home.

First, its fall in crime in general and homicide in particular is not the personal handiwork of Mayor Giuliani. William Bratton was sacked as Giuliani's Police Commissioner because he gained too much credit for the zero tolerance of "quality of life" offences. Bratton had already used this approach with great success as head of the subway police in New York, and in Boston. But US and British criminologists do not accept either man's claim that this fully accounts for the fall in New York homicides.

New York's experience is not unique. In fact, some 125 American cities have seen dramatic falls in homicide. Several others, such as Minneapolis, have seen an increase. Policing styles vary widely.

Nor was New York the most dangerous place in America. For years it has languished well behind many other cities such as Houston, Detroit and Chicago.

What is welcome is the long overdue recognition by American and British police that "quality of life" offences deserve their attention at least as much as more exciting but far less common violent crimes which drive public fear. Most criminologists agree the high number of US homicides is the result of easy access to handguns. They admire the British government's willingness to ban them, and will be dismayed they have not followed their own logic and banned them altogether.


London W9