With Crime Up 26% in NYC, Guardian Angels Make a Return
Although we support criminal justice and prison reform, we have cautioned against abandoning the tougher policing and sentencing reforms that resulted in such a remarkable and unexpected drop in American crime rates over the past two decades:
The U.S. homicide rate has been cut in half since 1992, from 9.3 murders per 100,000 people to 4.7. That is its lowest level since 1963. Violent crime rates reached 80 per 1,000 in 1993, but are down to 20 per 1,000 today. No city represents that improvement more than the one most associated with broken windows policing and get-tough policies, the formerly dystopian New York City. In 1993, the city’s murder rate reached 26.5 per 100,000 people, and accounted for almost 8% of all U.S. homicides. After twenty years of broken window police tactics, the rate has plummeted to 4 per 100,000, tourism has increased, famous public places are safer and the city has enjoyed an economic and lifestyle renaissance.
Disturbingly, however, two decades of plummeting crime rates have paradoxically allowed a popular sense of complacency to return, at least among political leaders seeking street cred with electoral subgroups and media indulgence.”
Unfortunately, we’re already witnessing early consequences of that movement. In New York, as detailed today by The Telegraph, crime has already risen 26% this year, prompting the return of something to which we became accustomed in the ugly days of the 1970s and ’80s there:
With their bright red jackets and berets, the Guardian Angels were once a common sight in a city riddled with violent crime. And this week they made a pointed return to New York’s Central Park for the first time in more than two decades, citing a 26 per cent rise in crime there so far this year.”
If nothing else, the sense of security that had returned to New York is already slipping away. Meanwhile, even CNN reports today that a police officer pistol-whipped unconscious last week in Alabama deliberately hesitated to use appropriate force in the face of attack out of fear of being accused of racism.
While prison and criminal law reform are somewhat severable from tough policing as policy issues, this is simply not something on which we can remain complacent, lest the bad old days return.