Heather MacDonald examines the dramatic drop in crime in New York City.
The national crime decline flattened out as the new century began. Some cities that were darlings of the media and the criminologists in the nineties have seen sharp increases in murder. Boston, lauded by the New York Times and others as the kinder, gentler corrective to New York’s allegedly overaggressive policing approach, has suffered its highest murder rate in a decade this year. Milwaukee and Memphis had double-digit homicide spikes in 2005. Philadelphia, Houston, San Francisco, and Kansas City are also seeing their nineties crime gains erode.
Not New York. From 2000 to 2005, the city’s crime rate fell another 30 percent. New York’s twenty-first-century experience is distinctive in the breadth and the depth of the continued decline. Even San Diego, the other favorite un–New York policing success story of the nineties, has not kept up with New York. While Gotham’s crime rate clocked in at 71 percent below its 1990 level in 2004, San Diego mustered a 55 percent decline. “Something qualitatively different is going on in New York,” says Zimring.