New York has all it needs to reverse the crime crisis except leadership

New York has all it needs to reverse the crime crisis except leadership

New York State had a violent crime rate of 1,180.9 per 100,000 and a homicide rate of 14.5 per 100,000 in 1990. By 2015, these measures had dropped to 379.7 and 3.1. This achievement is all the more impressive when one considers that serious violent crime was (and remains) concentrated in small slivers of the state’s urban enclaves, among some of its least favored residents.

Gallons of ink have been spilled over the question of how the victory was achieved. Well, on top of that victory, New York took a more aggressive approach to policing and criminal justice policy—approaching the new disgust of the state’s “progressive” elite, writing off the success as a fluke or arguing that massive public safety benefits it was not worth the costs of aggressive law enforcement.

New Yorkers — not just here in the Big Apple, but also in Syracuse, Buffalo, Albany and Rochester — have seen public safety and order deteriorate in recent years. Again, progressive policymakers and reform advocates would have us believe that the decline has nothing to do with less Aggressive approaches to policing and (especially) criminal justice policy taken across the state over the past decade.

This less aggressive attitude is evidenced by: flop in the prison and state prison population, flop in the numbers of state arrests, flop in halting activity for departments such as the NYPD, flop in the section on arrests for crimes resulting in convictions and imprisonment and grows in the section on arrests for crimes resulting in dismissals.

Syracuse police detectives and officers
New Yorkers across the state have seen public safety and order deteriorate in recent years.
Charlie Miller/The Post-Standard/AP

That these enforcement measures uniformly show low costs of committing crime (or higher costs of law enforcement) is no accident. Recent years have been marked by a host of policy changes that explicitly aim at decarceration and depolicing as goals in themselves that must be pursued with maximum speed.

In 2019, the state passed significant reforms to bail and discovery laws, making it much more likely for defendants to be released while their cases are pending and significantly more difficult for prosecutors to pursue those cases, thanks to resource exhaustion rules regarding materials that must be obtained and released to defense attorneys to keep a criminal case alive.

In 2020, Governor Andrew Cuomo signed a package of 10 police reform bills into law, which, among other things, criminalized the use of certain restraint techniques and expanded the attorney general’s authority to prosecute police officers involved in fatal uses of force. Last year, the state passed parole reforms that made it significantly harder to incarcerate inmates accused of violating their parole conditions.

First, the state made significant changes to the way it administers juvenile justice, making it significantly more likely that 16- and 17-year-old defendants would end up in family court, reducing the likelihood of lengthy prison terms as well. for severe ones. violent crimes. Before that was the rollback of the state’s Rockefeller drug laws in 2009. And we haven’t even gotten to the local reform initiatives, the elections of “progressive” prosecutors, or the police recruitment and retention crises since October that had the NYPD on track. right to lose about 4,000 officers 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 New York’s streets. How? By reorienting their approaches to policing and criminal justice around a mission of crime control rather than a mission of decarceration and depolicing for its own sake.

Getting it right means relearning the valuable lessons learned during the state’s extraordinary crime decline—lessons that illustrate the value of proactive, data-driven policing backed by criminal justice policies with real teeth. In other words (counterintuitive though it may sound), New York can move forward on the security front in part by looking back. Here’s hoping those in the driver’s seat care enough to look in the rearview mirror and have the wisdom to turn around.

Rafael A. Mangual is the Nick Ohnell Fellow and head of research on policing and public safety at the Manhattan Institute. Adapted from “The Next New York: Renewing and Reforming the Empire State,” a project of the Empire Center at

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