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October 18, 2013

What the heck is NYC doing so right to reduce murders, and why can't Chicago replicate it?

The question in the title of this post is prompted by this notable little news item from the New York Times headlined "New York Today: Murder Milestone." Here are the encouraging details:

The city’s murder rate keeps plummeting. So far this year, it’s down 26 percent, officials said.

If that trend holds, it would be the biggest one-year drop yet. And last year had the fewest murders in at least 50 years.

We asked the police bureau chief of The New York Times, Joseph Goldstein, to explain the decline. Some credit goes to a focus by the police on informal youth gangs known as crews, Mr. Goldstein told us.

The police, he said, “make the point that murders attributable to street violence are down even more significantly.” Last week, there were no murders at all.

The drop comes even as officers are doing only about half as many stop-and-frisks as they did at the beginning of last year.

Michael Jacobson, a former city correction commissioner and now a sociology professor at City University of New York, noted that last year’s total of 419 murders was down from 2,245 in 1990.

“If you asked any criminologist 20 years ago, ‘Can it go from 2,200 to 400?’ they would have thought you were insane,” he said. “But if it can go from 2,200 to 400, why can’t it go from 400 to 200?”

This wonderful reality should be celebrated by everyone, though it ought to be especially cheered by those who claimed that recent violent crime declines in the NYC were attributable primarily to very aggressive stop-and-frisk policies and practices. Also of note, especially for sentencing fans, is that this continuing decline in NYC murders is taking place within in a state without the death penalty and with a relatively low (and recently declining) prison population.

Of course, correlation does not mean causation, and a major city in a major state (Chicago, Illinois) is having continuing big problems with violent crime during the same period. Indeed, while folks in Chicago are now very busy having an interesting and robust debate over whether a law proposing mandatory minimum sentences for gun possession is a good way to fight violent crime (as documented in this effective op-ed and this prior post), I wonder if they might use their time and energy more effectively by trying everything they can to replicate everything that folks in NYC are doing lately.

Some related posts on modern crime rates, especially in urban areas: 

October 18, 2013 at 10:17 AM | Permalink

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Comments

Stop and Frisk

Posted by: Adamakis | Oct 18, 2013 12:47:31 PM

I am highly skeptical that policing methods have much of an impact at all, based on a very poor track record over time of any particular method working well over a sustained period in multiple places, and other factors being more reliable. I would look first to changing economic situations and demographics in Chicago and NYC respectively. NYC may have exiled the poor to the 'burbs more effectively than Chicago via rising property values.

Posted by: ohwilleke | Oct 18, 2013 3:18:50 PM

ohwilleke stated: "I would look first to changing economic situations and demographics in Chicago and NYC respectively. NYC may have exiled the poor to the 'burbs more effectively than Chicago via rising property values."

So, you admit that getting more criminals off the street (whether pushing them to the "burbs" or prison) is the best method for reducing crime?

Posted by: TarlsQtr1 | Oct 18, 2013 4:41:36 PM

I'd like to see Bill Otis or any other willing apologists for mass incarceration explain why crime in NY has steadily declined even though their incarceration rate has plummeted over the same period. If crime falls simply because crooks are locked up, how do we explain this counterexample?

Posted by: Gritsforbreakfast | Oct 18, 2013 7:30:07 PM

1.08.2013, 17:54 PM
Crime rate in Los Angeles falls for 10th straight year, making it the safest big city in America, but cell phone thefts are way up.

http://nydailynews.com/1.1235916

Posted by: george | Oct 18, 2013 8:27:26 PM

Shootings in NYC have increased since the end of stop and frisk. It is a tort to increase the risk of a group to get a disease. The court that ended Stop and Frisk should be made to pay the shooting victims.

That being said, the murder rate in NYC has dropped due the excellent trauma care system of NYC, not due to anything a lawyer is doing. Chicago's trauma care system is not as well developed. Violence is so prevalent in that unlivable, extremely unpleasant, Commie NYC that military surgeons rotate through their hospitals before going overseas.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Oct 19, 2013 12:51:05 AM

Grits --

"I'd like to see Bill Otis or any other willing apologists for mass incarceration explain why crime in NY has steadily declined even though their incarceration rate has plummeted over the same period."

I'd like to see Gritsforbreakfast or any other willing apologists for dangerous criminals explain why crime in US has steadily declined just as the incarceration rate has increased over the same period.

"If crime falls simply because crooks are locked up, how do we explain this counterexample?"

Of course neither I nor any other serious person has said that crime falls SIMPLY because crooks are locked up. Still, and as at one time you admitted, the increasing use of imprisonment accounts for a quarter or more of the decrease in crime. That is no small matter.

Of course it's possible, I guess, that for the first time since the dawn of civilization, there is no link between punishment and crime, but I'll let you make that case.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Oct 19, 2013 4:06:57 AM

Hey Doug, you might point out that even in Chicago, murders are way, way down since their highs in the 1990s. For example between 1990 and 1994, Chicago averaged more than 900 murders a year. On the other hand, the last five years (ending in 2012), Chicago averaged 472 murder per year. So even in Chicago, murders are down nearly 50% from their highs.

Posted by: dm9871 | Oct 19, 2013 8:53:22 AM

P.S. Sorry, I meant to include a link to that data: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crime_in_Chicago

Posted by: dm9871 | Oct 19, 2013 8:55:06 AM

Apparently, Grits never heard of the deterrence rationale of punishment. If punishment is swift, sure and harsh, people tend to get the message.

Grits should go back to cheerleading the harassment of legitimate businessmen who sell execution drugs to states.

Posted by: federalist | Oct 19, 2013 6:34:58 PM

We keep hearing about the "high" murder rate in Chicago and now on this blog I learn that it has gone down 50% since the 1990s. That is good. What is the murder rate per thousand or per million and what is that compared to NYC?

Posted by: Liberty1st | Oct 21, 2013 9:17:43 AM

Notice how Grits slinks away. Pathetic.

Why is it that libs in here always think they're so damned smart and morally superior, but they can never defend their posts (or the legal opinions of the "wise [sic] Latina", but that's for another day.)

472 per year is still way to high for the City of Chicago. I'm glad Liberty1st thinks that scare quotes are appropriate.

Posted by: federalist | Oct 22, 2013 12:36:34 AM

federalist --

I don't know that Grits is slinking away. He might just be pinned down by the Austin PD Swat Team, using bazookas. Tasers weren't enough last year. Just ask him.

http://www.dreamindemon.com/2012/02/22/blogger-busted-stretching-story-to-shame-austin-police/

Posted by: Bill Otis | Oct 22, 2013 12:06:09 PM

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