Brooklyn Bridge, NYC

Since a judge declared the New York City’s stop and frisk program unconstitutional there has been a steady stream of individuals defending this clearly racist policy. Most have defended the policy by trying to claim credit for what has really been a national decrease in crime. In the Washington Post Richard Cohen takes it one step further by claiming New York City’s drop in crime is unique.

The numbers are irrefutable. Last year, 419 New Yorkers were murdered, mostly by gunfire. In 1992, the figure was 1,995. That works out to approximately four fewer New Yorkers a day who were not killed by guns. Yes, crime has fallen across America, but nowhere has the drop approached New York City’s. Some of that is due to whiz-bang policing, computers and all that jazz. But some of it is due to stop-and-frisk. There are simply fewer guns on the street. (The New York Police Department estimates that in 1993, “as many as 2 million illegal guns were in circulation in New York City,” many of them imported from Virginia.)

While it is true that in New York City the number of murders last year was almost a quarter of what it was in 1992, the drop in murders was even larger in Washington DC, home of the Washington Post. The number of murders in DC is a fifth of what it was in 1992. I would have thought that working for the Washington Post Cohen would have heard this big news.

DC is not unique either. According to the FBI, Los Angeles had just over 1,000 murders/non-negligent manslaughters in 1992, but only 297 in 2011. Dallas went from 500 in 1991 to only 133 in 2011. Many major cities have seen a several-fold reduction in murders and other crimes since the early 90′s.

In fact, Los Angeles had a larger percentage drop in all violent crimes than New York City. From 1991 to 2011 Los Angeles went from 90,000 violent crimes to 20,000. By comparison, New York City went from 170,000 to 51,000.

The crime rate has improved significantly in New York City, but it is not unique.

Photo by Martin released under Creative Commons License