New York City Community Policing and Crime Reduction Research Paper

New York City Community Policing and Crime Reduction Research Paper

During the Nineteen Nineties, New York City experienced significant drops in all types of crime and disorder. According to official knowledge gathered from the New York City Police Department (NYPD), between 1990 and 1998, violent index offenses fell over 50% and property felonies dropped by over 60%. Murder alone dropped from a high of 2,262 in 1990 to 645 in 1998 – a decline of over 70%. Robbery, the “bellwether crime” that is the general gauge of violence in the metropolis, also dropped considerably – from a high of one hundred,280 in 1990 to 39,357 by 1998 – a 60%) decline.

While many cities across the United States benefited from declining crime charges in the 90s, New York’s achievements are among the most heralded. For example, the drop within the sheer number of homicides in NYC alone accounts for a substantial proportion of homicide discount in the nation as a whole (Blumstein & Rosenfeld, 1998).

Few debate that New York has turn into a safer place for the rationale that late 80s and early 90s. Nevertheless, many disagree as to the causes of the crime discount. Some claim that starting in the early 90s, modifications in NYPD management, insurance policies, and practices all had main impacts on crime charges. Others nonetheless, claim that whereas there may have been adjustments in policing within the early 90s, the truth that these changes accompanied the decline in crime is extra of an historical coincidence – crime would have gone down no matter police intervention as a outcome of different components that influence criminal activity.

Despite the appreciable dialogue amongst criminologists, politicians, practitioners, and the media, few have provided any real proof as to the causes of declining crime rates within the city – rather, debates over these causes proceed (and may always continue), typically ending in speculation. This paper supplies a crucial evaluation of the community policing initiative which contributed to the rapid decline in crime in NYC in the course of the Nineteen Nineties.

The Debate – A Brief Anecdote

During the plenary session of the 1999 NIJ Research and Evaluation Conference, two of the panelists, Professor Richard Curtis of John Jay College and Chief Charles Ramsey of the Washington, DC Metropolitan Police Department, debated the causes of crime discount in the United States through the Nineties.1 Drawing on ethnographic research in several communities in New York City, Curtis provided that adjustments in drug markets have accounted for substantial drops in crime. More particularly, his analysis advised that internal metropolis youths grew to become conscious about the social ills and unchecked violence related to the crack-cocaine period of the late 80s and early 90s.

Realizing the damage caused by crack and heroin, inside metropolis youths began to make acutely aware selections to avoid the use and distribution of these narcotics. Their selections, Curtis claimed, subsequently resulted in the restructuring of drug conditions, the discount in violence, and the decline in general legal exercise. These effects occurred unbiased of demographic factors and police efforts to regulate crime2.

Ramsey developed a special place. Although he acknowledged that altering drug markets could have influenced crime patterns within the specific areas that Curtis studied, the same could not be said for other places that had benefited from declines in crime. Indeed, in describing his experiences, Ramsey indicated that crack was still a big problem in plenty of communities. In addition, many youths had not but come to the belief that medication and violence had been powers of the past to be shunned by these within the present. Ramsey nevertheless, was not so fast to recommend an evidence for crime discount, and solely reluctantly offered his opinion that enhancements within the financial system probably had an affect.

It initially appeared, at least to this author, that Ramsey was developing an argument that would credit improved strategies of policing as a major purpose for crime reduction nationwide. Instead however, he led his feedback down a unique (and somewhat surprising) path. He first indicated that, as chief, he would not take credit score for crime drops because he did not want the police to be held responsible when crime inevitably starts to increase.

Indeed, he mentioned, if efforts to deal with social causes of crime aren’t implemented now, there could presumably be important spikes in crime as the teenage inhabitants will increase over the next decade. Second, whereas he acknowledged advantages of the neighborhood policing philosophy, he advised that group policing occurred to hit the United States at a fortuitous time – an historical coincidence that offers the phantasm that group policing had an influence on crime, despite the precise fact that crime would have gone down anyway as the outcome of unknown social factors.

The Debate – Explanations of Criminal Activity

The discussants’ remarks on the plenary session summarized above raise two main questions that remain on the forefront of criminological debate. The first (admittedly global) question relates generally to crime trends at the societal and communal ranges within the United States through the 1990s: What are the underlying causes of crime and disorder in communities, and, extra particular to the discussion above, what are the factors that trigger crime to extend and decrease? The second question, related to the primary however extra related to this dissertation, is directed specifically at crime management efforts: Can the police and/or other businesses of criminal justice proactively scale back crime, or can they solely react to changing patterns which would possibly be past their influence?

Changes in Policing because the Explanation for Crime Reduction in New York

As crime dropped nationally and in New York in the 90s, quite so much of opinions were offered as explanations. One main argument gave politicians and coverage makers credit score for numerous improved and/or progressive crime reduction insurance policies. In New York particularly, many cite crucial managerial and operational adjustments throughout the police division as the primary impetus for crime reduction within the city.

Supporters of this position in NYC focus on the administrations of Mayor Rudolph “Rudy” Guiliani and his first police commissioner, William Bratton. Starting with Guiliani’s appointment of Bratton in 1994, NYPD experienced elementary transformations in administration and operations. Bratton, borrowing from private-sector administration concept and drawing on his experiences as head of the NYC Transit Police and the Boston Police departments (among others), carried out a centered concept of motion to deal with the crime problem in New York (Kelling & Bratton, 1998; Bratton, 1998). This theory of action emphasized assertive order-maintenance policing by line personnel, in addition to strategies of managerial accountability for police supervisors of all ranks (see generally, Bratton, 1998; Kelling &Bratton, 1998; Maple, 1999; Silverman, 1999).

Steep declines in criminal exercise followed the implementation of Bratton’s insurance policies and later continued via the administrations of NYPD’s next commissioners, Howard Safir, Bernard Kerik, and most just lately, Raymond Kelly.

Bratton’s emphasis on proactive order-maintenance, which has been described as a marked distinction from the reactive mode of policing NYPD was accustomed to (Kelling & Bratton, 1998), was grounded in the ‘damaged windows’ speculation developed by Wilson and Kelling (1982). As is well known, Wilson and Kelling reasoned that dysfunction and different ‘minor’ offenses are linked to more critical violence and felony activity in a developmental sequence.3

Therefore, if the police, working with the community, can management dysfunction and ‘minor’ offenses, extra serious felony exercise may be averted. Bratton had had success making use of this principle to cut back crime within the New York City subways when he was head of the Transit Police (Kelling & Coles, 1996).4 He applied related strategies in New York when he turned commissioner several years later.

More is to be stated in regards to the ‘broken windows’ concept, Bratton’s theory of action, and the current methods of the NYPD later in this doc – indeed, these are all key components to the development of the questions addressed in this brief critique. For now nevertheless, suffice it to say that a lead argument in the New York City crime discount story gives credit to improved and progressive strategies of policing, first instituted beneath Bratton and continuing through to the present.

In order to supply a balanced critique on crime discount, it’s at least prudent to say a few of the components which may contribute to this discount. Two of crucial components are demographic and social changes. As with economic revitalization, altering demographic patterns (particularly changes within the youth population) are sometimes supplied as potential explanations for fluctuating crime charges.

Indeed, the age-crime connection is maybe probably the most typically recognized and studied within the social sciences. Examinations of the mixture age-crime curve reveal that crime tends to peak sharply in late adolescence and then declines (at first slowly, then extra rapidly) by way of young adulthood to eventual desistance in later adulthood (Blumstein et al, 1986, 23). Although some debate arose in the course of the mid-1980s regarding the true interpretation of the age-crime curve, it’s typically accepted that crime is by and enormous a youthful pursuit, notably involving young males of their mid to late teens and early twenties (Hirschi & Gottfredson, 1983; Farrington, 1986; Gottfredson & Hirschi, 1990).

In truth, there’s often the unquestioned assumption that “[t]he nation’s Crime Index rate… is likely to be strongly affected by the age composition of the population” (Steffensmeier & Harer, 1999, 237).

In addition to felony justice improvements, financial revitalization, and demographic fluctuations, there are a bunch of different opinions offered by social scientists, coverage analysts and journalists that attempt to elucidate crime reduction in NYC and within the United States. Many of those explanations imply that fundamental social or cultural modifications occurred that caused the reversal of the upward crime developments of the late 80s and early 90s.

Some explanations that have been provided embrace declining alcohol consumption (Parker & Cartmill, 1998), improved emergency medical companies, statistical regression to mean crime charges, an general “civilizing process” of the final inhabitants, better community and neighborhood anti-crime group, and optimistic modifications in the legitimacy of political and social establishments, such as schooling, welfare, and family stability (LaFree, 1998; 1999). However, perhaps essentially the most often mentioned social factor that has been linked to the decline in crime within the nation (and actually in NYC) is fluctuations in drug use, notably tendencies involving crack cocaine.

While an affiliation between medicine and crime has been studied for a while, the relationship between the crime spike of the late 80s and early 90s and the crack epidemic throughout the same years has acquired considerable attention. At the nationwide degree, the argument usually goes that the expansion of crack cocaine markets (which started within the mid-80s in poor, city areas) and the later contraction of those markets (in the early to mid-90s) coincide with crime will increase and reduces over the same time interval. While there might be comparatively little scientific evidence that links crack to crime in a causal fashion, the obvious correlation between crack trends and rates of violence has resulted in one of the extra in style explanations for fluctuations in national violent crime rates according to the media and criminological discourse.

A variety of reasons are supplied for why crack is associated with crime, particularly violent crime. Some hypothesize that the addictive nature of crack, its stimulant effect, and the economic burden it locations on users, forces customers to resort to illegitimate means (such as robbery) to have the ability to fuel their behavior (Lattimore et al, 1997; Riley, 1998). Others suggest that the “market” environment of crack selling accounts for rising violence (especially homicide) amongst sellers as they compete for management over turf (Lattimore et al, 1997; Riley, 1998), and lowering violence because the markets naturally “mature” over time (Blumstein & Rosenfeld, 1998).

In gentle of the information offered right here, one can clearly see the underlying debate almost about the efficacy of the community policing efforts set forth by the NYPD. One does not debate the fact that there was a major lower in crime which is coincidental with the brand new group policing efforts. The debate nevertheless does involve the notion that the new policing initiative was single-handedly responsible for this decrease. One can only add some clarity to the subject and speculate at greatest but there might be no particular reply.


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Blumstein, A., Cohen, J., Roth, J.A. & Visher, C.A. eds. (1986). Criminal Careers and ‘Career Criminals’ (vol.1). Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press.

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Bratton, W.J. (1998). Turnaround: How America’s Top Cop Reversed the Crime Epidemic. New York: Random House.

Farrington, D.P. (1986). Age and crime. in Michael Tonry & Norval Morris (eds.) Crime and Justice, Vol.7. pp. 189-250. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

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  1. The Annual Conference on Criminal Justice Research and Evaluation. Washington, DC. July 18, 1999. The plenary session dialogue is summarized in: Sudhir Venkatesh, Richard Curtis, and Charles H. Ramsey (1999), “Looking at Crime From the Street Level: Plenary Papers of the 1999 Conference on Criminal Justice Research and Evaluation – Enhancing Policy and Practice Through Research, Volume 1.” National Institute of Justice Research Forum, November 1999, NCJ178260.
  2. Curtis’ remarks at the convention are mirrored in several of his writings. See, for instance, Curtis (1999).
  3. Disorder and ‘minor’ offenses check with a extensive range of acts and situations which will or will not be wrongs within the authorized sense, but may be described as “incivility, boorish and threatening conduct that disturbs life, especially city life” (Kelling and Coles, 1996: 14). Disorder can usually be categorized into two groupings – social and physical (Skogan, 1990). Social issues embrace such behaviors as public consuming and drug use, aggressive panhandling, youth gangs who loiter and harass, and road prostitution. Physical disorders embody such situations as litter, vandalism, graffiti, and deserted vehicles and buildings.
  4. While Bratton’s policies in the subways have been comprised of many techniques, an example that maybe finest illustrates the applying of the ‘damaged windows’ concept concerned assertive enforcement of laws towards fare beaters. Essentially, police enforcement of fare beating legal guidelines was followed by a significant discount in robberies in the subways. This tactic, along with its link to ‘broken home windows,’ is described intimately by Kelling and Coles (1996).

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