Saturday, November 24, 2007

Start spreading the news

By Michael J.W. Stickings

I should let our two New Yawkahs, Creature and Carl, comment on this -- and they may yet -- but, hey, I'm a former resident of, well, New Jersey, Morris County to be precise, Mendham to be more precise, west of New York, along 80 to Parsippany, down 287 to Morristown, then west, and so, credibility established (or not), I thought I'd take this opportunity to pass along some good news:

New York City is on track to have fewer than 500 homicides this year, by far the lowest number in a 12-month period since reliable Police Department statistics became available in 1963.

But within the city’s official crime statistics is a figure that may be even more striking: so far, with roughly half the killings analyzed, only 35 were found to be committed by strangers, a microscopic statistic in a city of more than 8.2 million.

So. New York is getting safer, or, rather, less lethally violent. Which is great, of course. But what do these statistics say about one Rudy Giuliani, you know, the Mayor of America, 9/11-9/11-9/11, who is running not just on his supposed leadership in the wake of those terrorist attacks on the WTC, 9/11-9/11-9/11, but on his supposed success in reducing New York's violent crime rate (and indeed in turning the city around, from a deadly sewer to a shining light)? Here's Matt Yglesias:

The New York Times has an article that takes a look at the continuing declines in New York City's murder rate over the past few years. I think understanding this is, among other things, an important part of how we understand Rudy Giuliani's legacy. Before 9/11, of course, his signature accomplishment was his association with the massive crime drop the city experienced during the 1990s, a tumbling in the murder rate that was paralleled in most other major American cities, but that happened to a much greater extent in New York than elsewhere.

Giuliani and his supporters would tend to argue that certain apparent black marks on his administration's record -- Amadou Diallo, Patrick Dorismond, Rudy's generally horrible relationship with the African-American community -- were all just part of the price you had to pay for his super-effective anti-crime measures. But then Bloomberg came into office, kept much of the same policy framework in place, but went out of his way to try to be a bridge-builder who got along with all sorts of people. And the poof is in the pudding -- this works just fine. Nothing about sound crime control policy required Giuliani to be acting like a jerk or a madman, he just did that stuff because that's who he is.

A sound analysis. But let me add this:

As the Gothamist notes, "[o]ne can see a pattern of decline that is a continuation of an even more serious drop in murders that began in the early 1990s. Those reductions began with the institution of policies under Police Commissioner Ray Kelly, who then served in the Dinkins administration." That's right: Dinkins, not Giuliani. The murder rate declined dramatically under Giuliani (1994-2001), but the decline actually began under Dinkins (1990-1993). The rate flattened out during Giuliani's last few years in office but has declined again under Bloomberg (2002-present).

Giuliani may want to take all the credit for New York's turnaround -- on this and on pretty much everything else, arguing that his "success" as mayor qualifies him to be president -- but both his predecessor and his successor deserve much of the credit, too. Indeed, Dinkins could argue that he started the decline and Bloomberg could argue that he has been able to reduce the murder rate without being "a jerk or a madman," that he has been able to do so without alienating (and turning against him) much of the city, including those communities that justifiably feel violated and vulnerable.

Simply put, Bloomberg seems to have brought the city together (and made it safer) in a way that Giuliani never did -- and, given his personality and politics -- never could.

New York's recovery has been remarkable, but it wasn't all Giuliani's doing, whatever his self-congratulatory spin, and, behind the statistics, much of his supposed leadership was fraudulent and, worse, brutal.

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  • Sorry, Michael, to hear about your not having the day off "nawth" of the "bawda." A former Joisey guy here, originally from Princeton.

    This self-mythologizing of Giuliani has an aura of unreality about it, but I am not optimistic about voters seeing through the sham. The Kerik-Regan connection, however, may be his undoing. There is just too much sleeze gathering around Giulinani to leave him with any credibility.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7:15 AM  

  • David Dinkins' police commissioner, Ray Kelly, created the "Safe Streets, Safe City" program which upped the number of cops on the street by ten percent.

    Giuliani asked Kelly to stay on, then fired him when he was getting all the publicity (rightly) for reducing crime, replacing him with William Bratton, who ALSO did a marvelous job in targeting crime outbreaks as they were unfolding, and marshalling resources to those areas.

    Bratton was fired, and replaced first by Howard Safir, arguably the least competent police commissioner since Boss Tweed ran NYC. Safir, in turn, was replaced by the hideously inexperienced & corrupt Bernard Kerik. Most of the civil rights abuses happened on BK's watch.

    Bratton went onto the LAPD, where there too, he has done a fine job in crime reduction.

    Ray Kelly has been Bloomberg's NYPD commissioner since he started.

    Time Magazine had a really good in-depth analysis of Rudy's police commissioner travails last week.

    There are many socioeconomic factors involved here, too. The Clinton economic boom salvaged NYC to a large degree, and there's that creepy "Freakonomics" trope about abortion and crime, that shows that as abortion became legal, crime dropped, because while the US birth rate didn't decline, the babies that were being born to single mothers had been delayed until the mothers were better able to raise the kids, and have some financial security.

    By Blogger Carl, at 8:36 AM  

  • I'm very suspicious about attributing any of this to Republican policies ahead of an election. It could well be that the falling dollar has helped the NYC economy while the Bush debacle has hurt other cities where crime may be rising slightly. I take the Freakonomics book with a grain of salt, but there are so many factors involved, many of which we may not yet be aware of, that I'm not going to buy the idea that Giuliani or Bloomberg have some special Republican Mojo.

    Miami used to be the murder capital yet the rate plummeted after concealed weapons permits were issued in the 1980's - is that cause and effect? Who knows, and I see these New York statistics the same way - New York takes away guns and murder falls, Miami adds them and murder falls - too many variables we haven't looked at yet, including the trustworthiness of the numbers.

    By Blogger Capt. Fogg, at 9:53 AM  

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