Crime and Safety

NYC has everything it takes to turn the tide on crime except leadership

In 1990, New York State had a violent crime rate of 1,180.9 per 100,000 people and a homicide rate of 14.5 per 100,000 people. By 2015, these figures had dropped to 379.7 and 3.1. This achievement is even more astonishing when you consider that serious violent crime was (and still is) concentrated in small parts of the state’s urban enclaves, among some of its poorest residents.

Gallons of ink were poured on the question of how victory was achieved. Well, in the run-up to this victory, New York has taken a more aggressive approach to law enforcement and criminal justice policy—addressing the new revulsion of the state’s “progressive” elite, chalking up success to a coincidence or arguing that massive public safety gains weren’t worth the cost. aggressive enforcement.

New Yorkers — not just here in the Big Apple, but in Syracuse, Buffalo, Albany, and Rochester — have witnessed a deterioration in security and public order over the past few years. Again, progressive politicians and reformers want us to believe that decline has nothing to do with decisive less aggressive approaches to policing and (especially) criminal justice policy adopted in the state over the past decade.

This less aggressive posture is evidenced by: bows down in state prisons and prisons, bows down in state felony arrest numbers, bows down in shutting down departments such as the NYPD, bows down in the proportions of felony arrests resulting in both convictions and imprisonment, and increases in the share of arrests for serious crimes that led to dismissals.

Syracuse police detectives and officers
New Yorkers across the state have witnessed a deterioration in security and public order over the past few years.
Charlie Miller/The Post-Standard/AP

That these enforcement efforts consistently show lower costs of committing a crime (or higher costs to law enforcement) is no coincidence. The last few years have been marked by many policy changes, clearly aimed at liberation from punishment cells and depolicing as an end in itself, which must be pursued with maximum speed.

In 2019, the state made significant reforms to bail and disclosure laws that greatly increased the chances of defendants being released while their cases are pending and made it much more difficult for prosecutors to handle those cases thanks to resource-depleting material rules , which must be acquired and transferred to lawyers to support the criminal case.

In 2020, Governor Andrew Cuomo signed into law a package of 10 police reform bills that would, among other things, criminalize the use of certain methods of restraint and expand the Attorney General’s authority to prosecute police officers involved in the use of lethal force. Last year, the state passed a parole reform that made it much more difficult to incarcerate convicts accused of parole violations.

Before all this, the state made significant changes to the way it implements juvenile justice, greatly increasing the likelihood that 16- and 17-year-old defendants will end up in family court, reducing the likelihood of lengthy imprisonment even for serious crimes. violent crimes. Prior to that, in 2009, the Rockefeller Drug Act was repealed. And we haven’t even gotten to local reforms, the election of “progressive” prosecutors, or the recruitment and retention crises that caused the NYPD to lose about 4,000 officers in October by the end of the year.

Here’s the good news: decisive action by state and local leaders can help restore order and safety to the streets of New York. How? By refocusing their approaches to policing and criminal justice around the mission of fighting crime, rather than disarming and policing for their own sake.

Doing it right means relearning valuable lessons learned during a marked decline in the state’s crime rate – lessons that illustrate the value of proactive, data-driven policing backed up by real criminal justice policy. In other words (although it may seem counterintuitive), New York can move forward on security by looking back a bit. We hope those behind the wheel take care to look in the rearview mirror and dare to turn around.

Raphael A. Mangual is Nick Honell Research Fellow and Head of Police and Public Safety Studies at the Manhattan Institute. Adapted from “New New York: Renovating and Reforming the Empire State,” an Empire Center project at

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