|Cops do reduce crime|
|Written by Heather MacDonald|
New York City just ended 2007 with the lowest number of murders – below 500 – since 1963, the last year exact comparisons are possible. This homicide drop, from a high of 2,245 in 1990, is unmatched anywhere in the country or in the annals of policing. It is long past time for New Yorkers to acknowledge the debt that they owe to their police force. But the significance of the city's crime drop extends beyond the metropolis.
It overthrows decades of conventional wisdom about social control and behavior change. The reason for the city's crime rout is clear – the NYPD combines superb management with massive manpower. Since the mid-1990s, when the city's crime rate started its free fall, top brass and precinct commanders have excelled in developing crime control innovations.
Prime among them has been Compstat, the computer-aided analysis sessions that hold precinct commanders accountable for public safety in their jurisdictions. To his credit, Commissioner Raymond Kelly has maintained Compstat, which originated under rival Commissioner William Bratton in 1994. The intense and focused Kelly has added innovations of his own. Operation Impact floods crime hot spots with rookie officers, who walk foot beats.
The Real-Time Crime Center gets data on potential suspects and related crime patterns into the hands of detectives within minutes of a crime, allowing them to track down perps more quickly. Officers now visit domestic violence victims to check on their well-being, resulting in a 40 percent drop in domestic homicides over three years. And the Kelly-era NYPD has continued the nuts and bolts of effective policing – stop-and-frisks to get guns off the street and enforcement of quality-of-life laws – despite carping from the usual critics. It is impossible to overstate how distasteful the NYPD's success is to the criminology profession, which is committed to the idea that policing can do little to lower crime.
During the 1990s, criminologists attributed New York's crime drop to anything but policing. Since 2000, when their arguments began to appear even more absurd, they have simply gone silent and are assiduously looking the other way. But the conclusion is unavoidable – well-run policing is society's most powerful public safety tool. Since the 1960s, New York has spent billions on redistributionist social programs that were supposed to eradicate poverty and with it, the dysfunctional behaviors of the underclass.
Yet by the start of the 1990s, packs of feral youths roamed subways and parks maiming and murdering. Thugs armed with military weaponry controlled whole neighborhoods. Today, those neighborhoods thrive with commerce and family life, thanks to the NYPD. The city must honor the foot soldiers in the conquest of crime, in both word and deed. Officers' starting salaries of $25,100 are an insult and a threat to the quality of the force; the cops must get a raise. But equally important, anti-cop agitators must no longer be allowed to dominate the public discourse about policing.
The NYPD is among the most restrained big-city forces. Officer shootings are at record lows. A recent Rand Corp. study confirmed the obvious – officers respond to suspicious activity, not to race. If the anti-cop brigade had any interest in actually spending time with officers and learning what they do, it would discover their passionate commitment to law-abiding members of poor, minority communities, who, the police believe, have as much right to live free of fear as residents of Park Ave.
Next time cop-bashers like the Rev. Al Sharpton and City Councilman Charles Barron are on a rampage, it would be nice if city leaders actually spoke up for the cops, given how much they have done for New York. There is no reason to think that the NYPD won't continue lowering crime in 2008; proven tools of policing will continue to deter opportunistic crime and apprehend and lock away criminals who are not deterrable.
The city can show its gratitude by ignoring the provocateurs who make a living by demonizing the police.