A conversation I had yesterday prompted me to look up some data on crime in New York City. This is the short version: New York has the lowest violent crime rate of any large American city, and the rate continues to fall. In 2016, for example, the number of shootings was the lowest since the city began keeping count.
The murder rate was down as well. It fell to a record low in 2013, declined a small amount more in 2014 to set another record, rose slightly in 2015, and in 2016 tied with 2013, just a little above 2014. For comparison with the other three largest U.S. cities, in 2016 Chicago had 28 murders per 100,000 residents, Houston had 13.15, and Los Angeles 7.25. New York had 3.91. (For more see this article from January in New York magazine.)
The fall in crime has continued this year. In the first quarter serious crimes were down five percent from the same period in 2016. Through the end of July, murders and shootings were down a remarkable 17 percent in comparison with the first seven months of last year.
A related subject that came up in yesterday’s conversation was the city’s “stop-and-frisk” policy, under which police officers would stop people they thought looked suspicious and search their persons for weapons, drugs, or other contraband. One way you could look suspicious was to be black or Latino. Seriously, the city’s own data showed that more than half of those stopped were black and around 80 percent were either black or Latino.
This wasn’t an occasional thing; in several years the total number of such stops exceeded half a million. Moreover, every year 80 or 90 percent of the stops turned up no illegality. Some might take that as evidence that stop-and-frisk was working, since it was intended as much to deter crime as to catch bad guys in the act. But actually comparing the number of stops against various sorts of crime data over time showed no significant correlation, which makes it unlikely the policy helped reduce crime in reality.
In 2013 a court told the city to cut it out, because the Bill of Rights says police can’t just search people without a real reason. The city was going to appeal the ruling, but at the start of 2014 Bill De Blasio became mayor and kept his promise to do away with stop-and-frisk. Since then, as noted above, crime has remained lower than the years stop-and-frisk was in effect.
See this Washington Post article for more on stop-and-frisk.