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NYC Homicides Drop Sharply, Again (nytimes.com)
64 points by GabrielF00 on June 29, 2013 | hide | past | web | favorite | 68 comments

To provide a little bit of historical perspective on NYC's murders:

  1990: 2,262
  1993: 1,927
  1998:   629
  2001:   649
  2012:   417
  2013:   145 YTD

You need to consider all improvements in trauma care since 1990. Some victims that would have died in 1990 would make it today.

If you read the linked PDF, murders are down 83% while shooting victims are down 81% compared to 1993. Meanwhile, robberies are down 79%, rapes are down 54%, assaults are down 52%, etc. Everything is down 50-80% in the last 20 years, not just deaths. I don't think the facts support your narrative.

Does anyone have the #'s for say, shootings?

From the linked PDF:

Shooting Incidents YTD 2012: 581, 2013: 423

Shooting victims YTD 2012: 685, 2013: 486

perhaps aiming abilities decreased? due to drugs?

A friend of mine is a specialist trauma doctor in NYC and claims to only work 1.5 hours per day because hardly anything happens.

Do you have numbers from before 1990? The late 80s and early 90s were a particularly violent time in NYC.

The 70's were no picnic neither.

I knew relatives who lived in and around Canarsie (Brooklyn) in the 40's --there were more Euro-immigrants there than now. One died from a robber slitting veins in his arms, the other from a stabbing (by strangers in both cases). So it seems to have been a voilent city for much of its history, not just something which came after the WWII boom subsided and sliding into the socio-economic issues of the 60s and 70s.

I'm glad to see the city enter a new era of relative peacefulness. Now, I'd like to see the infrastructure upgraded to befit a great modern metropolis.

Would be interesting if numbers were available to see what happened in terms of the number of people assigned to homicide division. Did they remain the same (meaning they can spend more time say on each crime) or did they go down?

The homicide division doesn't prevent murders, they solve them.

People generally credit methodology changes under the term 'community policing' for the turn-around. Basically, the idea is that rather than just riding in, cracking skulls, slapping cuffs on once a night, engage with the community more, address more stuff like noise complaints and vandalism, to build relations with the community and coincidentally crack down on the same troublemakers a lot of the time. In theory (and in practice), it turns out to be more effective at stopping crime from happening than the deterrent factor of riding in lights blazing every night.

(This isn't to say that NYC cops are perfect or that stop-and-frisk doesn't happen all the damn time, just outlining the general theory behind community policing)

> The homicide division doesn't prevent murders, they solve them.

I don't think larrys was suggesting otherwise, just that it'd be interesting to know if the homicide division was reduced in line with the homicide rate. Similarly, what has happened to the percentage of cases being solved and successfully prosecuted?

> 'community policing' [...] turns out to be more effective at stopping crime

It's known as "policing by consent" by the British, where officers are meant to follow the "Peelian Principles" from 1829 [1]

Of particular relevance here:

2. The ability of the police to perform their duties is dependent upon public approval of police actions.

3. Police must secure the willing co-operation of the public in voluntary observance of the law to be able to secure and maintain the respect of the public.

4. The degree of co-operation of the public that can be secured diminishes proportionately to the necessity of the use of physical force.

9. The test of police efficiency is the absence of crime and disorder, not the visible evidence of police action in dealing with it.

[1] http://independentpolicecommission.org.uk/peelian-principles

"I don't think larrys was suggesting otherwise, just that it'd be interesting to know "


My feeling is that under the "work expands to fill the time available for completion" Parkinson's law https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parkinson%27s_law we would find that the size of that division didn't drop as much as it could (ratio wise) since a detective can always follow more leads. And if those leads led to arrests the labor would be justified. Without regard to whether the extra work was the reason or not.

All this of course assumes also that the staffing level was appropriate to begin with. No way to really know that. After solving crimes in NY Metro is not the same as solving crimes in a different geographic area (travel time or other support resources could be different).

The articles coverage of stop and frisk is bizarre, the police talk about how effective it's been despite halving the rate at which they do it. This would indicate that stop and frisk has a near zero effect on the murder rate.

There was a very interesting article[1] recently about the epidemiological link between leaded gasoline and crime.

[1] - http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2013/01/lead-crime-li...

There's also the link between abortion legalization and the subsequent drop in crime, mentioned in Freakonomics.

The leaded gasoline theory better explains observations (gathered data). The abortion rights theory is still very interesting, and worth discussion, but leaded gasoline is currently more right, to be amended and supplanted as we learn more.


Steven Pinker argues that since the separation between the cause (lead exposure in childhood) and effect (criminal behavior in adulthood) is so wide, there are almost certainly big confounding variables that we haven't considered.

> There are reasons to be skeptical of any claim based on correlations between such widely separated variables as lead exposure (the cause) and crime (the effect). Consuming lead does not instantly turn someone i nto a criminal in the way that consuming vitamin C cures scurvy. It affects the child’s developing brain, which makes the child duller and more impulsive, which, in some children, and under the right circumstances, leads them to grow up to make short - sight ed and risky choices, which, in some children and under the right circumstances, leads them to commit crimes, which, if enough young people act in the same way and at the same time, affects the crime rate. The lead hypothesis correlates the first and last link in this chain, but it would be more convincing if there were evidence about the intervening links.

source - http://stevenpinker.com/files/pinker/files/pinker_comments_o...

The Mother Jones article addresses that. You should read it. It's an interesting theory.

Thirdly, there's also the effect of the newer policing techniques, like the 'broken windows' approach. It's likely some mix of all three.

"there's also the effect of the newer policing techniques"

Or the non-effect of them.

Crime rates have dropped drastically across the board, across the country, in many places that didn't make their policing policies more fascist as NYC's government chose to.

From the MJ article:

  Second, and far more puzzling, it's not just New York that has
  seen a big drop in crime. In city after city, violent crime peaked
  in the early '90s and then began a steady and spectacular
  decline. Washington, DC, didn't have either Giuliani or Bratton, but
  its violent crime rate has dropped 58 percent since its
  peak. Dallas' has fallen 70 percent. Newark: 74 percent. Los
  Angeles: 78 percent.

  There must be more going on here than just a change in policing
  tactics in one city.

Oh, to have a statistics oracle.

I wonder how much of it is associated with anti poverty programs.

LA had Bratton.

It's really not that puzzling. Incarceration rates have skyrocketed in tandem with the drop in crime. What's puzzling is the number of analysts who keep on missing this most obvious piece of the pie.

Attention HN Homeowners: The MJ article links to a short page about lead pipes in houses. Sadly MJ sticks with the scary story but devotes very little attention to replacing the lead service to your house. The good news is that as far as house troubles go replacing a lead service pipe is not that bad and your local water authority can probably help out a lot.

Call your water authority and ask about lead abatement programs. While you are on the phone with them ask if they can send someone to your house and test the water for lead (some do some dont). Most municipalities have programs to help homeowners replace the lead service. The most prevalent is a program where the municipality pays for the lead service replacement and you slowly pay off the debt with monthly payments added to your water bill. Some municipalities have grant money so that they can replace the lead service pipe for houses with children.

Given the clipart picture of galvanized pipes it is no surprise that they did not do a stellar job covering lead abatement programs.

There's another interesting article that says--actually, it's all about the price of cocaine: http://www.theatlanticcities.com/jobs-and-economy/2011/11/co...

Except that in far too many areas, crime is still increasing. Are they painting houses with lead paint again?

I wonder how much of the drop in crime rates can be attributed to Manhattan and parts of Brooklyn increasingly becoming a haven for the superrich and poorer people being priced out. An "outsize share" of the violence is in East New York, Brooklyn, and South Jamaica, Queen.

Probably some of it, but probably not a lot. The very poor are not actually priced out of NYC. NYC heavily taxes the middle class and rich in order to pay certain poor people to remain in the city (including very desirable areas).

The main people being priced out are the middle class, not the poor.

To be fair, you don't just apply and you're in. You have to be in an industry the city wants to grow, and even then it's a bit of a lottery, highly dependent on how long you've lived in the City.

The absurdity of it though is that you can stay in the subsidized housing program long after you switch industries and make bank.

>The absurdity of it though is that you can stay in the subsidized housing program long after you switch industries and make bank.

My guess is that that is a side effect of the fact that you can stay in your subsidized apartment long after you switch industries and make bank. That does not seem that absurd to me: in general, Americans are too rootless, so a policy that incentivizes some people to continue to have the same neighbors seems worth some amount of divergence from "perfect economic justice" or whatever you want to call it.

Why is it beneficial to subsidize people having the same neighbors?

Roots cause unemployment, since they make people less likely to move to a new job. If anything, we should be taxing the stationary rather than subsidizing them.

Roots also cause community, and make people more likely to organize to protect and improve the conditions of the place where they live.

edit: As a simple illustration, I am a typical single, firmly middle class professional who lives in a neighborhood that I have no connection to, is nowhere near any of my family, and I know maybe one or two of my neighbors by name. If the city decided that it wanted to dump all of its garbage in the middle of my street, end rodent control, fire, and police protection in my neighborhood, and add heavy metals to the water, I would just move to a place where they weren't doing that, and leave the people who couldn't afford to to rot.

As one of the members of the top 10% in household incomes, I could conceivably keep doing that until 90% of the populace was mutating in a nuclear wasteland, and I was reduced to a shitty studio apartment for $6000/mo in the outskirts of a walled community guarded by our private paramilitary massacre-rape squad, which periodically makes incursions into the wasteland to seize kitschy furniture to sell to us on the inside.

>Roots cause unemployment, since they make people less likely to move to a new job

That's true, but unemployment is not a huge problem in the US compared to problems like addiction and father-less children which are made worse by rootlessness.

In other words, the genius of America is how it removes barriers to people's becoming economically productive and following individual visions, but it is possible to take that spirit too far, particularly in domains like subsidized housing for poor people.

For most of the last 2 million years, most people were surrounded by the same people all their lives, and interactions with strangers were rare. Although it is necessary for most of us to diverge from that ancestral way of life to maintain what we have achieved as a civilization, diverging too much causes social pathologies, particularly addiction.

Someone very close to me has spent the last 18 years in a subsidized apartment building for poor people in the Bay Area. Half of this person's neighbors are the same people as when he moved in 18 years ago. There is value in that.

There is more to maintaining a healthy society that young people pulling up roots to move to the Bay Area to do fearsomely economically-productive things with computers, young people moving to Cambridge, MA, to become research scientists and young people obtaining law degrees and moving to Washington, DC, to gain enough influence to inject some wisdom and sanity into our government. In particular, there is a "social fabric" that can become diseased by too much emphasis on individual freedom and economic efficiency.

Priced out, but apparently also losing jobs while lower incomes gained jobs: http://video.msnbc.msn.com/up/51308385

I agree with you I don't think the income gap is the cause of lower crime. Also these crime rates are dropping absolutely not per capita, right? Is there any data to show that the actual population of lower income (or even middle income) residents has dropped? All the news focuses on the variance in income distribution. NYC could be getting richer while still taking in more low income residents.

you really believe NYC is taking in more low income residents? Exactly where are they moving into? Remember, they destroyed a couple blocks of section 8 housing to build the new Brooklyn Nets arena.

It's really difficult to get into section 8 housing and private developers have been snatching up rent stabilized and controlled apts as much as possible, renovating them to end the rent price controls, and then putting them back on the market. There's also considerable desire to buy and develop new condos on properties that used to house lower rent apts. To that end, the very poor are priced out since they are unlikely to get section 8 and are more likely to see an existing apt they have got bought out and/or get the priced raised.

The poverty rate has been going up in NYC as the crime rate has been going down: http://www.wnyc.org/articles/wnyc-news/2012/sep/20/new-york-...

the quality of life of someone living in poverty has been increasing.

Well that is a very cynical way to look at it; you should remember that overall crime rate has been dropping for a couple decades now.

I don't think that trend has sped up considerably since 2012 to affect such a large drop in the year over year number.

cannot agree more. in my opinion, regardless of the statistics drop in crime is primarily attributed to exuberant increase of the cost of living especially in the historically impoverished neighborhoods from the 1980s and on. (i.e. Bushwick, Williamsburg, Bedford-Stuyvesant etc...)

Apparently at least some of the crime statistics have been fudged.

The Crime Numbers Game: Management by Manipulation http://www.amazon.com/The-Crime-Numbers-Game-Manipulation/dp...

So now I don't know what to believe. My guess is that violent crime has gone down, but not as fast as the police depts have reported.

This American Life did a story about this [1] not too long ago, and featured an officer who recorded conversations from NYPD supervisors instructing officers to downgrade or not report crimes so the precinct looked better. There's also another story about the use of CompStat in the NYT. [2]

For the context of this post, however, I think it's fair to assume that murders are getting pretty accurately reported, since it's hard to downgrade or not report a murder.

[1] http://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/414/r... [2] http://www.nytimes.com/2012/06/29/nyregion/new-york-police-d...

My friend was hit by a car the other night crossing the street in Brooklyn (just bruised thankfully). It was a hit and run and when the NYPD came, they did everything possible to try and dissuade him from making a report. To the point where we had a mini confrontation with the cop in order to just get him to file the paperwork. It really seemed like he had outside pressure put on him to not file.

So I wouldn't be surprised if the NYPD is fudging the numbers somehow, though homicide is a tough thing to hide in crime stats I'd imagine...

In most places a physician has to sign a death certificate for every death. The physician can either be the attending physician when the patient died during care or a medical examiner otherwise. The death certificate often has a place for "cause of death", and it's the medical examiner who officially designates a homicide. So it's hard (though certainly not impossible) for homicides to disappear from the records entirely.

Here's David Simon (creator of The Wire) explaining how crime stats are 'juked'.


I'll try to paraphrase a key part:

He did acknowledge that while you can use various tricks to hide crime (turn robberies into larcenies), it's very difficult to massage the murder rate numbers since a state medical examiner usually classifies the death.

So how do you bring the murder rate down? They basically instilled a curfew in poorer neighborhoods, and swept the streets every night. Baltimore cops locked up something like a 100,000 people, in a city with about 650,000 people, most never charged with anything.

Definitely check the video out.

David Simon of The Wire has talked about this. You can fudge statistics for things like robbery, burglary, rape, etc. by reporting them as lesser crimes or otherwise making them go away, but it's much more difficult to fudge the stats when it comes to murder, because murders are so visible.

I don't remember where I heard this, but one journalist/investigator compared crime reports with hospital admissions and bodies in the morgue. They didn't match, eg underreporting.

The most extreme example I've heard is Disney World in Florida, where the body is removed from the premises (jurisdiction) before a report is filed, so they can keep the fatality counts down.

Everyone is so quick to try to assign cause to any phenomenon. I'm going to remind everyone that correlation is a necessary but not sufficient condition for causation, and there is often a significant time difference between the cause and the effect. I'm not saying that the stop and frisk tactics did or didn't work, but saying that stop and frisk wasn't the cause because stop and frisks were lower in this time period isn't valid. Maybe the increased stop and frisks in 2012 got the criminals off the street that were going to commit murders in 2013. Again, I'm not saying that stop and frisk is a good or legal idea, but the argument that some people are using to dismiss it is a flawed argument and needs some more work.

Buried in the 2nd to last paragraph:

"The program relies heavily on tracking the online activities of neighborhood gangs, in effect, trying to prevent shootings before they happen."

"Police officials also credited their efforts at identifying and monitoring abusive husbands whose behavior seemed poised to turn lethal."

I found that interesting. I always felt that for domestics there wasn't a lot you could do, but I guess that's not the case.

What's the drug scene like in New York these days? First you had heroin, then the rise of crack cocaine, but since then the murder rate has gone lower and lower (early 90's)

There's a very close link between the drug trade and inner-city murders.

This is an insightful post. The numbers posted above start at 1990 which was the tail-end of the decades of heroin, cocaine and crack epidemics in NYC. It looks like crime is back down towards a rate similar to 1965:


Not sure about the exactness of these statistics, just a quick google result that seems legit.

What the hell was this zeroed for? There is absolutely nothing in this post that is factually incorrect or presented in an offensive manner.

HN really should show who's voting on posts.

I'm with you on that. Or it should force someone to comment if your down voting, but that has notable drawbacks when a comment is just plain inflammatory.

One word...gentrification.

419 murders in 2012 in NYC, 154 in 2013 already.

London had 99 murders in 2012.

The USA's murder rate is about 4x the UK's, so it's no big surprise that any given city's rate might be about 4x as well.

Chicago had 532 murders in 2012. With 1/3rd the population of NYC

When did this become a contest?

NYC's extremely low murder rate for a big city in the USA is really nothing special compared to other major cities world wide.

I think the context is useful in comparison.

I can't make sense of crime statistics except when comparing either different times (article), or different places (your parent comment)

While the reduction is indeed something to be pleased about, remember that in criminology, it's not unusual to see blips like this. It might be a blip, or it might be the start of a new trend. Too early to tell.

This has been a very long running trend here. Since 1990, crime in US cities in general has been dropping like a rock.

Absolutely, but they haven't been dropping 25% every year. You still get short-term rises and falls on long-term trends.

Runs faster in memory, allegedly.

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