36 Hours Without Violent Crime in NYC Shocks Nation, Not Criminologists

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Beginning at 22:25 on Sunday November 25th, New York City experienced a reprieve from shootings, stabbings, and murders for just over thirty-six hours. The pause in violent crime ended at 11:20 on Tuesday November 27th when a man was shot. The blogosphere, and news outlets around the country lit up, remarking on this rare occurrence. Yet criminologists and public policy experts were less surprised. Data shows that there has been a 45 percent decline in overall crime across the United States since the 1990’s, heralded in partially by the decrease in widespread crack-cocaine abuse since the 1980’s. New York City has experienced a parallel drop in crime, and continued to see a decrease in crime rates throughout the 2000’s even while rates remained fairly stable across the rest of the nation. In 2011, there were 472 homicides in New York City, which averages out to around 1.5 homicides a day. It follows that on some days, there would be multiple murders while some days no one is killed. However, the likelihood and frequency of violent crimes like stabbing and non-fatal shootings are much higher, and some believe that since statistics may not accurately capture all shootings and stabbings, that the crime-free day did not actually exist.

However, experts do not agree on the reasons driving this decline in crime. In 2007, crime was expected to rise as numbers of people released from prison exceeded those incarcerated anew, and the economy crashed. Other predictors believed that since minorities are the most common victims of violent crime that increasing minority populations in NYC would bump up crime. The opposite has been the case. With demographics and the economy ruled out, better police work is one option left to account for the shift. Since the 1990’s the NYPD adopted Comstat, a tool that helped police to identify patterns and hotspots and allocate resources accordingly. Top police officials began to meet more regularly, and develop a uniform, joint plan to fight crime across the city including new strategies such as more police presence, cracking down on outdoor drug sales, and the controversial stop and frisk tactics involving searching men in high crime areas for drug and weapon possession. Criminologists are uncertain which method is creating the shift, and if any would work individually. Further testing is required to help police isolate the approaches that work, and hopefully increase the number of crime free days in one of the world’s most well-known metropolises.

Source courtesy of BBC. Image courtesy of The Nation.