Why Crime Rates Fell in 1990s in New York

Throughout United States history, crime rates rise and fall.  There are times when it would dramatically rise over a certain period.  After some time, crime rates will begin to fall.  The reason or reasons that affect the crime rates remain a mystery until today.  While a number of studies have been made attempting to explain the factors affecting crime rates, until now there is yet no conclusive finding on what causes crime rates to rise and fall.  Because of this uncertainty, police officers once had the mentality that there was nothing they can do to reduce the crime.  For them, crime is part and parcel of the society which is beyond their control.  Or, if something could be done about crime, the responsibility belongs to the parents, schools, churches, and the economy.

A study, however, in 1990 showed that crime can be reduced through innovative police strategies and initiatives.  As a result, heads of police departments began to think that they can reduce the commission of crime.  It is noteworthy that while they continued to disclaim responsibility every time there was an increase in crime, they also accepted responsibility every time there was a decrease in crime rate.

This has happened in 1990 when crime rates in New York dramatically fell.  The reduction in crime rate became a trend which lasted for many years.  Because this was a remarkable occurrence, many people claimed responsibility for the decline in crime rate.  Among these people were politicians and law enforcement officers who proclaimed that their policies and strategies were the primary reasons why crime rate fell in New York during this time.

Administration of Mayor Dinkins and Commissioner Raymond Kelly and Lee Brown

If police officers Raymond Kelly and Lee Brown were to be asked, the crime rates in Manhattan, New York fell because of the strategies undertaken by them.  Several police initiatives and measures were cited as important contributors to the decline in crime rate.  One of these police measures was the Operation Takeback which involved the detailing of the additional narcotics officers and police officers on patrol.  They also added that the policy of requiring desk officers to patrol the streets at least once a week also contributed to the decline in crime rate.  Commissioner Brown also added that community policing strategy helped in the improvement of relationship between the police and the community and consequently decreased crime rates.

On the other hand, Mayor Dinkins claimed that crime rate fell because of the Safe Streets, Safe City Program he initiated.  In this program, he required the city to raise property taxes and imposed surcharge on personal income tax in order to pay for additional police officers on the streets.  For him reducing crime means recruiting more police officers to guard the streets and protect the people.  Moreover, educational and social services were also provided to youths who because of their circumstances are more likely to commit crime.

Times, on other hand, offered another explanation for the crime rate.  According to Times, crime rates fell as a result of the economic decline in New York during the 1990s.  Because there were fewer employees and shoppers in New York, there was less incentive for criminals to commit crimes.

On the other hand, there are some who were skeptical about the claims of politicians and police officers.  They argued that crime rates fell merely because the public have lost trust in the police officers and that they were no longer reporting crimes to them.  Moreover, there are those who argue that the main reason why crime rates fell is because the police arrested fewer drug offenders.  Since narcotic undercover agents were assigned to conduct patrol on the streets of New York, mass arrests of drug offenders was substantially reduced.   A proof is a study saying that during this time arrests involving drug offenses declined by 31%.

Despite the conflicting reasons for the reduction in crime rates and the uncertainties and inadequacies in crime statistics, the Times made an argument that the reduction of crime rate may be attributed to the policies and programs of both Mayor Dinkins and Commissioner Brown.  This was corroborated by a Brooklyn resident who was impressed with the way the crime was handled by the mayor and the police commissioner saying that “Things have drastically changed over the past few years.  I attribute it to the community patrols.  The officers are out there on the streets.  There is real problem-solving taking place.” (p.34)