Crime in New York City has dropped 80% since the early 1990s, a decline unmatched anywhere in the country. The change has yielded an explosion of commerce in once forlorn neighborhoods, a boom in tourism, and a sharp rise in property values. Nowhere were the effects more dramatic than in the city’s poorest areas.
When the bullets stopped flying, entrepreneurs snapped up the vacant lots that had served as breeding grounds of crime. Senior citizens were able to visit friends without fear of getting mugged. Children could sleep in their own beds rather than in bathtubs, no longer needing shelter from stray gunfire. Target, Home Depot and other national chains moved into thoroughfares long ruled by drug gangs, providing jobs for local workers and giving residents retail choices taken for granted in middle-class neighborhoods.
Most significant, more than 10,000 black and Hispanic males avoided the premature death that would have been their fate had New York’s homicide rate remained at its early-1990s apex. Blacks and Hispanics have made up 79% of the decline in homicide victims since 1993.
New York’s previously unimaginable status as America’s safest big city is now in jeopardy thanks to a rising campaign against its proactive style of policing. In 1994 the New York Police Department, led then by Commissioner William Bratton, embraced the revolutionary concept that the police could actually prevent crime, not just respond to it after the fact.