Crime in New York City

New York City
Crime rates (2014)
Crime type Rate*
Aggravated assault:376.5
Total violent crime:624.1
Motor vehicle theft:98.8
Total property crime:1,722.2
* Number of reported crimes per 100,000 population.
* New York City did not report arson statistics
Source: permanent dead link] FBI 2014 UCR data

Violent crime in New York City has been dropping since the mid-1990s[1][2] and, as of 2015, is lower than the national average for big cities.[3] In 2014, there were 328 homicides, the lowest number since at least 1963.[2][4] Crime rates spiked in the 1980s and early 1990s as the crack epidemic hit the city.[5][6] According to a 2015 ranking of 50 cities by The Economist, New York was the 10th overall safest major city in the world, as well as the 28th safest in personal safety.[7]

During the 1990s the New York City Police Department (NYPD) adopted CompStat, broken windows policing and other strategies in a major effort to reduce crime. The city's dramatic drop in crime has been attributed by criminologists to policing tactics, the end of the crack epidemic, and some have speculated more controversial ideas such as the legalization of abortion approximately 18 years previous[5][6] and the decline of lead poisoning of children.[8]


19th century

Organized crime has long been associated with New York City, beginning with the Forty Thieves and the Roach Guards in the Five Points in the 1820s.

In 1835, the New York Herald was established by James Gordon Bennett, Sr., who helped revolutionize journalism by covering stories that appeal to the masses including crime reporting. When Helen Jewett was murdered on April 10, 1836, Bennett did innovative on-the-scene investigation and reporting and helped bring the story to national attention.[9]

Peter Cooper, at request of the Common Council, drew up a proposal to create a police force of 1,200 officers. The state legislature approved the proposal which authorized creation of a police force on May 7, 1844, along with abolition of the nightwatch system.[10] Under Mayor William Havemeyer, the police force was reorganized and officially established on May 13, 1845 as the New York City Police Department (NYPD), with the city divided into three districts, with courts, magistrates, and clerks, and station houses set up.[10]

High-profile murders

Murder of Helen Jewett
Main article: Helen Jewett

Helen Jewett was an upscale New York City prostitute whose 1836 murder, along with the subsequent trial and acquittal of her alleged killer, Richard P. Robinson, generated an unprecedented amount of media coverage.[11]

Murder of Mary Rogers
Main article: Mary Rogers

The murder of Mary Rogers in 1841 was heavily covered by the press, which also put the spotlight on the ineptitude and corruption in the city's watchmen system of law enforcement.[9] At the time, New York City's population of 320,000 was served by an archaic force, consisting of one night watch, one hundred city marshals, thirty-one constables, and fifty-one police officers.[10]

Murder of Benjamin Nathan
Main article: Benjamin Nathan

Benjamin Nathan, patriarch of one of the earliest Sephardic Jewish families to emigrate to New York, was found bludgeoned to death in his rooms in the Fifth Avenue Hotel on the morning of July 28, 1870. Police initially suspected one of the family's servants, mostly Irish immigrants; later on Nathan's profligate son Washington was mentioned in the newspapers as a possible suspect (since Albert Cardozo, a relative by marriage, interfered in the investigation). However, no one was ever indicted and the case remains unsolved.[12]


1863 draft riots

The New York City draft riots in July 1863[13] were violent disturbances in New York City that were the culmination of working-class discontent with new laws passed by Congress that year to draft men to fight in the ongoing American Civil War. The riots remain the largest civil insurrection in American history, aside from the Civil War itself.[14]

President Abraham Lincoln was forced to divert several regiments of militia and volunteer troops from following up after the Battle of Gettysburg to control the city. The rioters were overwhelmingly working-class men, primarily ethnic Irish, resenting particularly that wealthier men, who could afford to pay a $300 ($5,555 in 2014 dollars) commutation fee to hire a substitute, were spared from the draft.[15][16]

Initially intended to express anger at the draft, the protests turned into a race riot, with white rioters, mainly but not exclusively Irish immigrants,[14] attacking blacks wherever they could be found. At least 11 blacks are estimated to have been killed. The conditions in the city were such that Major General John E. Wool, commander of the Department of the East, stated on July 16 that "martial law ought to be proclaimed, but I have not a sufficient force to enforce it."[17] The military did not reach the city until after the first day of rioting, when mobs had already ransacked or destroyed numerous public buildings, two Protestant churches, the homes of various abolitionists or sympathizers, many black homes, and the Colored Orphan Asylum at 44th Street and Fifth Avenue, which was burned to the ground.[18]

Other riots

In 1870, the Orange Riots were incited by Irish Protestants celebrating the Battle of the Boyne with parades through predominantly Irish Catholic neighborhoods. In the resulting police action, 63 citizens, mostly Irish, were killed.[19]

The Tompkins Square Riot occurred on January 13, 1874 when police violently suppressed a demonstration involving thousands of people in Tompkins Square Park.[20]

20th and 21st centuries

High-profile crimes include:








Notable recent crime trends

Wall Street frauds

Main article: Wall Street

Wall Street has become synonymous with financial interests, often used negatively.[97] During the subprime mortgage crisis from 2007 to 2010, Wall Street financing was blamed as one of the causes, although most commentators blame an interplay of factors. The U.S. government with the Troubled Asset Relief Program bailed out the banks and financial backers with billions of taxpayer dollars, but the bailout was often criticized as politically motivated,[97] and was criticized by journalists as well as the public. Analyst Robert Kuttner in the Huffington Post criticized the bailout as helping large Wall Street firms such as Citigroup while neglecting to help smaller community development banks such as Chicago's ShoreBank.[97] One writer in the Huffington Post looked at FBI statistics on robbery, fraud, and crime and concluded that Wall Street was the "most dangerous neighborhood in the United States" if one factored in the $50 billion fraud perpetrated by Bernie Madoff.[98] When large firms such as Enron, WorldCom and Global Crossing were found guilty of fraud, Wall Street was often blamed,[99] even though these firms had headquarters around the nation and not in Wall Street. Many complained that the resulting Sarbanes-Oxley legislation dampened the business climate with regulations that were "overly burdensome."[100] Interest groups seeking favor with Washington lawmakers, such as car dealers, have often sought to portray their interests as allied with Main Street rather than Wall Street, although analyst Peter Overby on National Public Radio suggested that car dealers have written over $250 billion in consumer loans and have real ties with Wall Street.[101] When the United States Treasury bailed out large financial firms, to ostensibly halt a downward spiral in the nation's economy, there was tremendous negative political fallout, particularly when reports came out that monies supposed to be used to ease credit restrictions were being used to pay bonuses to highly paid employees.[102] Analyst William D. Cohan argued that it was "obscene" how Wall Street reaped "massive profits and bonuses in 2009" after being saved by "trillions of dollars of American taxpayers' treasure" despite Wall Street's "greed and irresponsible risk-taking."[103] Washington Post reporter Suzanne McGee called for Wall Street to make a sort of public apology to the nation, and expressed dismay that people such as Goldman Sachs chief executive Lloyd Blankfein hadn't expressed contrition despite being sued by the SEC in 2009.[104] McGee wrote that "Bankers aren't the sole culprits, but their too-glib denials of responsibility and the occasional vague and waffling expression of regret don't go far enough to deflect anger."[104]

US headquarters of Deutsche Bank on Wall Street in 2010.

But chief banking analyst at Goldman Sachs, Richard Ramsden, is "unapologetic" and sees "banks as the dynamos that power the rest of the economy."[105] Ramsden believes "risk-taking is vital" and said in 2010:

You can construct a banking system in which no bank will ever fail, in which there's no leverage. But there would be a cost. There would be virtually no economic growth because there would be no credit creation. – Richard Ramsden of Goldman Sachs, 2010.[105]

Others in the financial industry believe they've been unfairly castigated by the public and by politicians. For example, Anthony Scaramucci reportedly told President Barack Obama in 2010 that he felt like a piñata, "whacked with a stick" by "hostile politicians".[105]

The financial misdeeds of various figures throughout American history sometimes casts a dark shadow on financial investing as a whole, and include names such as William Duer, Jim Fisk and Jay Gould (the latter two believed to have been involved with an effort to collapse the U.S. gold market in 1869) as well as modern figures such as Bernard Madoff who "bilked billions from investors".[106]

In addition, images of Wall Street and its figures have loomed large. The 1987 Oliver Stone film Wall Street created the iconic figure of Gordon Gekko who used the phrase "greed is good", which caught on in the cultural parlance.[107] According to one account, the Gekko character was a "straight lift" from the real world junk-bond dealer Michael Milken,[99] who later pleaded guilty to felony charges for violating securities laws. Stone commented in 2009 how the movie had had an unexpected cultural influence, not causing them to turn away from corporate greed, but causing many young people to choose Wall Street careers because of that movie.[107] A reporter repeated other lines from the film:

I’m talking about liquid. Rich enough to have your own jet. Rich enough not to waste time. Fifty, a hundred million dollars, Buddy. A player. – lines from the script of Wall Street[107]

Wall Street firms have however also contributed to projects such as Habitat for Humanity as well as done food programs in Haiti and trauma centers in Sudan and rescue boats during floods in Bangladesh.[108]

Late 20th century trends

Freakonomics authors Steven Levitt and Steven Dubner attribute the drop in crime to the legalization of abortion in the 1970s, as they suggest that many would-be neglected children and criminals were never born.[109] On the other hand, Malcolm Gladwell provides a different explanation in his book The Tipping Point; he argues that crime was an "epidemic" and a small reduction by the police was enough to "tip" the balance.[110] Another theory is that widespread exposure to lead pollution from automobile exhaust, which can lower intelligence and increase aggression levels, incited the initial crime wave in the mid-20th century, most acutely affecting heavily trafficked cities like New York. A strong correlation was found demonstrating that violent crime rates in New York and other big cities began to fall after lead was removed from American gasoline in the 1970s.[111]

Gang violence

An NYPD vehicle stationed in Times Square.

In the 20th century, notorious New York-based mobsters Arnold Rothstein, Meyer Lansky, and Lucky Luciano made headlines. The century's later decades are more famous for Mafia prosecutions (and prosecutors like Rudolph Giuliani) than for the influence of the Five Families.

Violent gangs such as the Black Spades and the Westies influenced crime in the 1970s.

The Bloods, Crips and MS-13 gangs of Los Angeles arrived in the city in the 1980s, but gained notoriety when they appeared on Rikers Island in 1993 to fight off the already established Latin Kings gang.

Chinese gangs were also prominent in Chinatown, Manhattan, notably Ghost Shadows and Flying Dragons.

Subway crime

Crime on the New York City Subway reached a peak in the late 1970s and early 1980s, with the city's subway having a crime rate higher than that of any other mass transit system in the world.[112] As of 2011, the subway has a record low crime rate, as crime started dropping in the '90s, a trend that continues today.[113][114]

Various approaches have been used to fight crime. A 2012 initiative by the MTA to prevent crime is to ban people who commit one in the subway system from entering it for a certain length of time.[115]

In the 1960s, mayor Robert Wagner ordered an increase in the Transit Police force from 1,219 to 3,100 officers. During the hours at which crimes most frequently occurred (between 8:00 p.m. and 4:00 a.m.), the officers went on patrol in all stations and trains. In response, crime rates decreased, as extensively reported by the press.[116]

However, as a consequence of the city's 1976 fiscal crisis, service had become poor and crime had gone up, with crime being announced on the subway almost every day. Additionally, there were 11 "crimes against the infrastructure" in open cut areas of the subway in 1977, where TA staff were injured, some seriously. There were other rampant crimes as well. For example, in the first two weeks of December 1977, "Operation Subway Sweep" resulted in the arrest of over 200 robbery suspects. Passengers were afraid of crime, fed up with long waits for trains that were shortened to save money, and upset over the general malfunctioning of the system. The subway also had many dark subway cars.[112] Further compounding the issue, on July 13, 1977, a blackout cut off electricity to most of the city and to Westchester.[112] Due to a sudden increase of violent crimes on the subway in the last week of 1978, police statistics about crime in the subway were being questioned. In 1979, six murders on the subway occurred in the first two months of the year, compared to nine during the entire previous year. The IRT Lexington Avenue Line was known to be frequented by muggers, so in February 1979, a group headed by Curtis Sliwa began unarmed patrols of the 4 train during the night time, in an effort to discourage crime. They were known as the Guardian Angels, and would eventually expand their operations into other parts of the five boroughs. By February 1980, the Guardian Angels' ranks numbered 220.[117]

In March 1979, Mayor Ed Koch asked the city's top law enforcement officials to devise a plan to counteract rising subway violence and to stop insisting that the subways were safer than the streets. Two weeks after Koch's request, top TA cops were publicly requesting Transit Police Chief Sanford Garelik's resignation because they claimed that he had lost control of the fight against subway crime. Finally, on September 11, 1979, Garelik was fired, and replaced with Deputy Chief of Personnel James B. Meehan, reporting directly to City Police Commissioner Robert McGuire. Garelik continued in his role of chief of security for the MTA.[112] By September 1979, around 250 felonies per week (or about 13,000 that year) were being recorded on the subway, making the crime rate the most of any other mass transit network anywhere in the world. Some police officers supposedly could not act upon quality of life crimes, and were only to look for violent crimes. Among other problems the following were included:

MTA police radios and New York City Police Department radios transmitted at different frequencies, so they could not coordinate with each other. Subway patrols were also adherent to tight schedules, and felons quickly knew when and where police would make patrols. Public morale of the MTA police was low at the time. so that by October 1979, additional decoy and undercover units were deployed in the subway.[112]

Meehan had claimed to be able to, along with 2.3 thousand police officers, "provide sufficient protection to straphangers", but Sliwa had brought a group together to act upon crime, so that between March 1979 and March 1980, felonies per day dropped from 261 to 154. However, overall crime grew by 70% between 1979 and 1980.[118]

On the IRT Pelham Line in 1980, a sharp rise in window-smashing on subway cars caused $2 million in damages; it spread to other lines during the course of the year. When the broken windows were discovered in trains that were still in service, they needed to be taken out of service, causing additional delays; in August 1980 alone, 775 vandalism-related delays were reported.[119] Vandalism of subway cars, including windows, continued through the mid-1980s; between January 27 and February 2, 1985, 1,129 pieces of glass were replaced on subway cars on the 1, 6, CC, E, and K trains.[120] Often, bus transfers, sold on the street for 50 cents, were also sold illegally, mainly at subway-to-bus transfer hubs.[121] Mayor Koch even proposed to put a subway court in the Times Square subway station to speed up arraignments, as there were so many subway-related crimes by then. Meanwhile, high-ranking senior City Hall and transit officials considered raising the fare from 60 to 65 cents to fund additional transit police officers, who began to ride the subway during late nights (between 8 p.m. and 4 a.m.) owing to a sharp increase in crime in 1982. Operation High Visibility, commenced in June 1985, had this program extended to 6 a.m., and a police officer was to be present on every train in the system during that time.[122]

On January 20, 1982, MTA Chairman Richard Ravitch told the business group Association for a Better New York, that he would not let his teenage sons ride the subway at night, and that even he, as the subway chairman, was nervous riding the trains.[123] The MTA began to discuss how the issue could be the ridership issue could be fixed, but by October 1982, mostly due to fears about transit crime, poor subway performance and some economic factors, ridership on the subway was at extremely low levels matching 1917 ridership.[124] Within less than ten years, the MTA had lost around 300 million passengers, mainly because of fears of crime. In July 1985, the Citizens Crime Commission of New York City published a study showing this trend, fearing the frequent robberies and generally bad circumstances.[125] As a result, the Fixing Broken Windows policy, which proposed to stop large-profile crimes by prosecuting quality of life crimes, was implemented.[126][127] Along this line of thinking, the MTA began a five-year program to eradicate graffiti from subway trains in 1984.[128]

To attract passengers, the TA tried to introduce the “Train to the Plane”, a service staffed by a transit police officer 24/7. This was discontinued in 1990 due to low ridership and malfunctioning equipment.

In 1989, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority asked the transit police (then located within the NYCTA) to focus on minor offenses such as fare evasion. In the early nineties, the NYCTA adopted similar policing methods for Penn Station and Grand Central Terminal. When in 1993, Mayor Rudy Giuliani and Police Commissioner Howard Safir were elected to official positions, the Broken Windows strategy was more widely deployed in New York under the rubrics of "zero tolerance" and "quality of life". Crime rates in the subway and city dropped,[129] prompting New York Magazine to declare "The End of Crime as We Know It" on the cover of its edition of August 14, 1995. Giuliani's campaign credited the success to the zero tolerance policy.[130] The extent to which his policies deserve the credit is disputed.[131] Incoming New York City Police Department Commissioner William J. Bratton and author of Fixing Broken Windows, George L. Kelling, however, stated the police played an "important, even central, role" in the declining crime rates.[132] The trend continued and Giuliani's successor, Michael Bloomberg, stated in a November 2004 press release that "Today, the subway system is safer than it has been at any time since we started tabulating subway crime statistics nearly 40 years ago."[133]

Child sexual abuse in religious institutions

Two cases in 2011 – those of Bob Oliva and Ernie Lorch – have both centered in highly ranked youth basketball programs sponsored by churches of different denominations. In early 2011, Oliva, a long-time basketball coach at Christ The King Regional High School, was accused of two cases of child sexual abuse.[134]

Also, sexual abuse in Brooklyn's Haredi Jewish community has been common.

In Manhattan, Father Bruce Ritter, founder of Covenant House, was forced to resign in 1990 after accusations that he had engaged in financial improprieties and had engaged in sexual relations with several youth in the care of the charity.[135]

In December 2012, the President of the Orthodox Jewish Yeshiva University apologized over allegations that two rabbis at the college’s high school campus abused boys there in the late 1970s and early ’80s.[136][137]

Nightlife legislation

In New York City, legislation was enacted in 2006, affecting many areas of nightlife. This legislation was in response to a number of murders which occurred in the New York City area, some involving nightclubs and bouncers. The city council introduced four pieces of legislation to help combat these problems, including Imette's Law, which required stronger background checks for bouncers. Among the legislative actions taken were the requirement of ID scanners, security cameras, and independent monitors to oversee problem establishments.

It also enacted the following plan:

A new guideline booklet, NYPD and Nightlife Association Announce “Best Practices,[138] was unveiled on October 18, 2007. This voluntary rule book included a 58-point security plan drafted in part by the New York Nightlife Association, was further recommended by Police Commissioner Ray Kelly and Speaker Christine Quinn. Security measures included cameras outside of nightclub bathrooms, a trained security guard for every 75 patrons and weapons searches for everyone, including celebrities entering the clubs. The new regulation resulted in stricter penalties for serving underage persons.[139][140][141]

The Club Enforcement Initiative was created by the NYPD in response to what it referred to as "a series of high-profile and violent crimes against people who visited city nightclubs this year", mentioning the July 27 rape and murder of Jennifer Moore. One article discussed the dangers of police work and undercover investigations.[142]

In August 2006, the New York City Council started initiatives to correct the problems highlighted by the deaths of Moore and St. Guillen.[143][144] There was also discussions about electronic I.D. scanners. Quinn reportedly threatened to revoke the licenses of bars and clubs without scanners.[145]

In September 2011, the NYPD Nightlife Association updated their Safety Manual Handbook. There is now a section on counterterrorism; this addition came after the planned terrorist attacks on certain bars and clubs worldwide.[146]



Crime in New York City was high in the 1980s during the Mayor Edward I. Koch years, as the crack epidemic hit New York City, and peaked in 1990,[1] the first year of Mayor David Dinkins' administration (1990–1994). During the administration of Mayor Rudolph Giuliani (1994–2002), there was a precipitous drop in crime in his first term, continuing at a slower rate in both his second term and under Mayor Michael Bloomberg (2002–2014).

Scholars differ on the causes of the precipitous decline in crime in New York City (which also coincided with a nationwide drop in crime which some have termed the "Great American Crime Decline").[147] In a 2007 paper, economist Jessica Reyes attributes a 56% drop in nationwide violent crime in the 1990s to the removal of lead (a neurotoxin that causes cognitive and behavioral problems) from gasoline.[147] The Brennan Center for Justice has estimated that between 0-5% of the drop in crime in the 1990s may be attributed to higher employment; 5-10% of the drop may be attributed to income growth; and 0-10% of the drop from increased hiring of police officers.[147] Economists Steven Levitt and John J. Donohue III argue that the drop in crime in New York City, as in the United States generally, to the legalization of abortion following Roe v. Wade (see legalized abortion and crime effect).[147]

David Dinkins

David Dinkins

Under David Dinkins's Safe Streets, Safe Cities program, crime in New York City decreased more dramatically and more rapidly, both in terms of actual numbers and percentage, than at any time in modern New York City history.[148] The rates of most crimes, including all categories of violent crime, made consecutive declines during the last 36 months of his four-year term, ending a 30-year upward spiral and initiating a trend of falling rates that continued beyond his term.[149] Despite the actual abating of crime, Dinkins was hurt by the perception that crime was out of control during his administration.[150][151] Dinkins also initiated a hiring program that expanded the police department nearly 25%. The New York Times reported, "He obtained the State Legislature’s permission to dedicate a tax to hire thousands of police officers, and he fought to preserve a portion of that anticrime money to keep schools open into the evening, an award-winning initiative that kept tens of thousands of teenagers off the street."[151][152]

Rudy Giuliani

Rudy Giuliani

In Rudolph Giuliani's first term as mayor the New York City Police Department, under Giuliani appointee Commissioner Bill Bratton, adopted an aggressive enforcement and deterrence strategy based on James Q. Wilson's Broken Windows research. This involved crackdowns on relatively minor offenses such as graffiti, turnstile jumping, and aggressive "squeegeemen," on the principle that this would send a message that order would be maintained and that the city would be "cleaned up."

At a forum three months into his term as mayor, Giuliani mentioned that freedom does not mean that "people can do anything they want, be anything they can be. Freedom is about the willingness of every single human being to cede to lawful authority a great deal of discretion about what you do and how you do it".[153]

Giuliani also directed the New York City Police Department to aggressively pursue enterprises linked to organized crime, such as the Fulton Fish Market and the Javits Center on the West Side (Gambino crime family). By breaking mob control of solid waste removal, the city was able to save businesses over $600 million.

One of Bratton's first initiatives was the institution in 1994 of CompStat, a comparative statistical approach to mapping crime geographically in order to identify emerging criminal patterns and chart officer performance by quantifying apprehensions. The implementation of CompStat gave precinct commanders more power, based on the assumption that local authorities best knew their neighborhoods and thus could best determine what tactics to use to reduce crime. In turn, the gathering of statistics on specific personnel aimed to increase accountability of both commanders and officers. Critics of the system assert that it instead creates an incentive to underreport or otherwise manipulate crime data.[154] The CompStat initiative won the 1996 Innovations in Government Award from the Kennedy School of Government.[155]

Bratton was featured on the cover of Time Magazine in 1996 rather than Giuliani.[156] Giuliani forced Bratton out of his position after two years, in what was generally seen as a battle of two large egos in which Giuliani was unable to accept Bratton's celebrity.[157][158]

National, New York City, and other major city crime rates (1990–2002)[159]

Giuliani continued to highlight crime reduction and law enforcement as central missions of his mayoralty throughout both terms. These efforts were largely successful.[160] However, concurrent with his achievements, a number of tragic cases of abuse of authority came to light, and numerous allegations of civil rights abuses were leveled against the NYPD. Giuliani's own Deputy Mayor, Rudy Washington, alleged that he had been harassed by police on several occasions. More controversial still were several police shootings of unarmed suspects,[161] and the scandals surrounding the sexual torture of Abner Louima and the killing of Amadou Diallo. In a case less nationally publicized than those of Louima and Diallo, unarmed bar patron Patrick Dorismond was killed shortly after declining the overtures of what turned out to be an undercover officer soliciting illegal drugs. Even while hundreds of outraged New Yorkers protested, Giuliani staunchly supported the New York City Police Department, going so far as to take the unprecedented step of releasing Dorismond's "extensive criminal record" to the public,[162] for which he came under wide criticism. While many New Yorkers accused Giuliani of racism during his terms, former mayor Ed Koch defended him as even-handedly harsh: "Blacks and Hispanics ... would say to me, 'He's a racist!' I said, 'Absolutely not, he's nasty to everybody'."[163]

The amount of credit Giuliani deserves for the drop in the crime rate is disputed. He may have been the beneficiary of a trend already in progress. Crime rates in New York City started to drop in 1991 under previous mayor David Dinkins, three years before Giuliani took office.[160] Under Dinkins's Safe Streets, Safe Cities program, crime in New York City decreased more dramatically and more rapidly, both in terms of actual numbers and percentage, than at any time in modern New York City history.[164] The rates of most crimes, including all categories of violent crime, made consecutive declines during the last 36 months of Dinkins's four-year term, ending a 30-year upward spiral.[150] A small but significant nationwide drop in crime also preceded Giuliani's election, and continued throughout the 1990s. Two likely contributing factors to this overall decline in crime were federal funding of an additional 7,000 police officers and an improvement in the national economy. But many experts believe changing demographics were the most significant cause.[165] Some have pointed out that during this time, murders inside the home, which could not be prevented by more police officers, decreased at the same rate as murders outside the home. Also, since the crime index is based on the FBI crime index, which is self-reported by police departments, some have alleged that crimes were shifted into categories that the FBI does not quantify.[166]

According to some analyses, the crime rate in New York City fell even more in the 1990s and 2000s than nationwide and therefore credit should be given to a local dynamic: highly focused policing. In this view, as much as half of the reduction in crime in New York in the 1990s, and almost all in the 2000s, is due to policing.[167] Opinions differ on how much of the credit should be given to Giuliani; to Bratton; and to the current Police Commissioner, Ray Kelly, who had previously served under Dinkins and criticized aggressive policing under Giuliani.[168]

Among those crediting Giuliani for making New York safer were several other cities nationwide whose police departments subsequently instituted programs similar to Bratton's CompStat.[169][170]

In 2005 Giuliani was reportedly nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts to reduce crime rates in the city.[171] The prize went instead to Mohamed ElBaradei and the IAEA for their efforts to reduce nuclear proliferation.[172]

Michael Bloomberg

Michael Bloomberg

Starting in 2005, under the mayoral tenure of Michael Bloomberg, New York City achieved the lowest crime rate among the ten largest cities in the United States.[173] Since 1991, the city has seen a continuous fifteen-year trend of decreasing crime. Neighborhoods that were once considered dangerous are now much safer. Violent crime in the city has dropped by three quarters in the twelve years ending in 2005 with the murder rate at its lowest then level since 1963 with 539 murders that year, for a murder rate of 6.58 per 100,000 people, compared to 2,245 murders in 1990.[174] The murder rate continued to drop each year since then. In 2012, there were 414 murders, mainly occurring in the outlying, low income areas of NYC. In 2014, there were 328 murders, the lowest number since the introduction of crime statistics in 1963. Among the 182 U.S. cities with populations of more than 100,000, New York City ranked 136th in overall crime.[175]

In 2006, as part of Mayor Michael Bloomberg's gun control efforts, the city approved new legislation regulating handgun possession and sales. The new laws established a gun offender registry, required city gun dealers to inspect their inventories and file reports to the police twice a year, and limited individual handgun purchases to once every 90 days. The regulations also banned the use and sale of kits used to paint guns in bright or fluorescent colors, on the grounds that such kits could be used to disguise real guns as toys.[176] In April, along with Boston mayor Thomas Menino, Bloomberg co-founded Mayors Against Illegal Guns.[177][178] A December 2013 press release by the group said the bipartisan coalition included over 1,000 mayors.[177] As mayor, Bloomberg increased the mandatory minimum sentence for illegal possession of a loaded handgun, saying: "Illegal guns don't belong on our streets and we're sending that message loud and clear. We're determined to see that gun dealers who break the law are held accountable, and that criminals who carry illegal loaded guns serve serious time behind bars."[179] He opposes the death penalty, saying he would "rather lock somebody up and throw away the key and put them in hard labor."[179]

In July 2007, the city planned to install an extensive web of cameras and roadblocks designed to detect, track and deter terrorists called Lower Manhattan Security Initiative, which is similar to the City of London's "ring of steel".[180] The City of London, the financial district at the center of Greater London, had 649 local government operated cameras in 2011[181] (often wrong quoted to be 500,000 cameras[182]).

In 2007 New York City had 494 reported homicides, down from 596 homicides in 2006, and the first year since 1963 (when crime statistics were starting to be published) that this total was fewer than 500.[183] Although homicides rose (to 523) in 2008,[184] they fell again in 2009 to 466, an almost fifty-year low.[185][186] Homicides continued to decline, with the city reporting 414 in 2012 and only 333 in 2013.[174]

In 2010 the New York Post reported that NYPD supervisors were under increased pressure to "fudge" crime stats by downgrading major crimes to minor offenses. However, the same researchers that provided the evidence "acknowledged that major crimes were at a historic low."[187]

Police commissioners

Two of the most influential police commissioners of New York City, Raymond Kelly and William Bratton, helped to greatly reduce the city's crime rate.

Ray Kelly

Ray Kelly

On October 16, 1992, David Dinkins appointed Raymond Kelly 37th Police Commissioner of the City of New York. The national decline in both violent crime and property crime began in 1993, during the early months of Raymond Kelly's commissionership under Dinkins. At the time a firm believer in community policing, Kelly helped spur the decline in New York by instituting the Safe Streets, Safe City program, which put thousands more cops on the streets, where they would be visible to and able to get to know and interact with local communities. As the 37th Commissioner, he also pursued quality of life issues, such as the “squeegee men” that had become a sign of decay in the city. The murder rate in New York city had declined from its 1990 mid-Dinkins administration historic high of 2,254 to 1,927, when Kelly left in 1994,[188] and continued to plummet even more steeply under Mayors Giuliani and Bloomberg.

The decline continued when Kelly returned as 41st Commissioner under Mayor Bloomberg in 2002–2013. As commissioner of the NYPD under Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Kelly had often appeared at outreach events such as the Brooklyn's annual West Indian Day Parade, where he was photographed playing the drums and speaking to community leaders. Bloomberg and Kelly, however, continued to place heavy reliance on the CompStat system, initiated by Bill Bratton and since adopted by police departments in other cities worldwide. The system, while recognized as highly effective in reducing crime, also puts pressure on local precincts to reduce the number of reports for the seven major crimes while increasing the number of lesser arrests.[189] The two men continued and indeed stepped up Mayor Giuliani's controversial stop-and-frisk policy, which is considered by some to be a form of racial profiling. In the first half of 2011 the NYC police made 362,150 such arrests, constituting a 13.5 percent increase from the same period in 2010, according to WNYC radio (which also reported that 84 percent of the people stopped were either black or Latino, and that "nine out 10 stops did not result in any arrest or ticket.") According to New York State Senator Eric Adams, “Kelly was one of the great humanitarians in policing under David Dinkins. I don’t know what happened to him that all of a sudden his philosophical understanding of the importance of community and police liking each other has changed. Sometimes the expeditious need of bringing down crime numbers bring out the worst in us. So instead of saying let’s just go seek out the bad guy, we get to the point of, ‘Let’s go get them all.’ If Kelly can’t philosophically change, then we need to have a leadership change at the top.”[190]

Under Bloomberg, Commissioner Kelly also revamped New York City's Police Department into a world-class counter-terrorism operation, operating in conjunction with the CIA. Prior to September 11, 2001 there were fewer than two dozen officers working on terrorism full-time; ten years later there were over 1,000. One of Kelly's innovations was his unprecedented stationing of New York City police detectives in other cities throughout the world following terrorist attacks in those cities, with a view to determining if they are in any way connected to the security of New York. In the cases of both the March 11, 2004, Madrid bombing and the London bombings on July 7 and 21, 2005, NYPD detectives were on the scene within a day to relay pertinent information back to New York. An August 2011 article by the Associated Press reported the NYCPD's extensive use of undercover agents (colloquially referred to as “rakers”[191] and “mosque crawlers”[192]) to keep tabs, even build databases, on stores, restaurants, mosques. and clubs. NYPD spokesman Paul Browne denied that police trawled ethnic neighborhoods, telling the AP that officers only follow leads. He also dismissed the idea of “mosque crawlers,” saying, "Someone has a great imagination."[193]

According to Mother Jones columnist Adam Serwer, "The FBI was reportedly so concerned about the legality of the NYPD's program that it refused to accept information that came out of it."[194] Valerie Caproni, the FBI's general counsel, told the AP that the FBI is barred from sending agents into mosques looking for leads outside of a specific investigation and said the practice would raise alarms. "If you're sending an informant into a mosque when there is no evidence of wrongdoing, that's a very high-risk thing to do," she was quoted as saying. "You're running right up against core constitutional rights. You're talking about freedom of religion."[193]

Under Mayor Bloomberg, Kelly's NYPD also incurred criticism for its handling of the protests surrounding the 2004 Republican National Convention, which resulted in the City of New York having to pay out millions in settlement of lawsuits for false arrest and civil rights violations, as well as for its rough treatment of credentialed reporters covering the 2011 Occupy Wall Street demonstrations.[195]

On March 5, 2007, it was announced that a Rikers Island inmate offered to pay an undercover police officer posing as a hit man to behead Kelly as well as bomb police headquarters in retaliation for the controversial police shooting of Sean Bell.[196]

Bill Bratton

Bill Bratton

William Bratton became the chief of the New York City Transit Police in 1990. In 1991 the Transit Police gained national accreditation under Bratton. The Department became one of only 175 law-enforcement agencies in the country and only the second in New York State to achieve that distinction. The following year it was also accredited by the State of New York, and by 1994, there were almost 4,500 uniformed and civilian members of the Department, making it the sixth largest police force in the United States. Bratton had left the NYC Transit Police returning to Boston in 1992 to head the Boston Police Department, one of his long-time ambitions. In 1994, Bratton was appointed the 38th Commissioner of the NYPD by Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani. He cooperated with Giuliani in putting the broken windows theory into practice. He had success in this position, and introduced the CompStat system of tracking crimes, which proved successful in reducing crime in New York City and is used to this day. A new tax surcharge enabled the training and deployment of around 5,000 new better-educated police officers, police decision-making was devolved to precinct level, and a backlog of 50,000 unserved warrants was cleared. Bratton resigned in 1996.[197][198]

On December 5, 2013, New York City mayor-elect Bill de Blasio named Bratton as New York City's new Police Commissioner to replace Raymond Kelly after de Blasio's swearing-in on January 1, 2014. The New York Times reported that at Bratton's swearing in on January 2, 2014, the new Police Commissioner praised his predecessor Raymond Kelly, but also signaled his intention to strike a more conciliatory tone with ordinary New Yorkers who had become disillusioned with policing in the city: "We will all work hard to identify why is it that so many in this city do not feel good about this department that has done so much to make them safe — what has it been about our activities that have made so many alienated?".[199]

Murders by year

Year Murders
1928 404[note 1]
1929 425
1930 494
1931 588
1932 579
1933 541
1934 458
1935 N/A
1936 510
1937–1959 N/A
1960 482
1961 483
1962 631
1963 548[200]
1964 636[200]
1965 634[200]
1966 654[200]
1967 746[200]
1968 986[200]
1969 1043[200]
1970 1117[200]

Year Murders
1971 1466[200]
1972 1691[200]
1973 1680[200]
1974 1554[200]
1975 1645[200]
1976 1622[200]
1977 1557[200]
1978 1504[200]
1979 1733[200]
1980 1814[200]
1981 1826[200]
1982 1668[200]
1983 1622[200]
1984 1450[200]
1985 1384[200]
1986 1582[200]
1987 1672[200]
1988 1896[200]
1989 1905[200]
1990 2245[200][note 2]
1991 2154[200]

Year Murders
1992 1995[200]
1993 1946[200]
1994 1561[200]
1995 1177[200]
1996 983[200]
1997 770[200]
1998 633[200]
1999 671[200]
2000 673[200]
2001 649[200][note 3]
2002 587[200]
2003 597[200]
2004 570[200]
2005 539[200]
2006 596[200]
2007 494[200]
2008 522
2009 471[201]
2010 534[202]
2011 515[203]
2012 414
2013 332
2014 328[note 4]
2015 352[204]

Chart of murders in the NYC area by year
  1. 1928: First year tabulated.
  2. 1990: Highest total to date.
  3. 2001: Not including the September 11 attacks.
  4. 2013: Lowest total since 1928, lowest per capita rate.

In certain locations

The boroughs of Brooklyn, Queens, and Staten Island have historically had low crime rates compared to the Bronx and Manhattan.


Burned-out building, Charlotte Street

The Bronx, specifically the South Bronx, had some of the poorest neighborhoods in the country, as well as very high crime areas. However, its image as a poverty-ridden area developed in the latter part of the 20th century.[205] White flight, landlord abandonment, economic changes, demographics, and the construction of the Cross Bronx Expressway all contributed to the borough's decay in the decades since the 1960s.[206]

The Cross Bronx Expressway, completed in 1963, was a part of Robert Moses’s urban renewal project for New York City. The expressway is now known to have been a factor in the extreme urban decay seen by the borough in the 1970s and 1980s. Cutting through the heart of the South Bronx, the highway displaced thousands of residents from their homes, as well as several local businesses. The neighborhood of East Tremont, in particular, was completely destroyed by the Expressway. Others have argued that the construction of such highways have not harmed communities.[206][207]

The already poor and working-class neighborhoods were at further disadvantaged by the decreasing property value, in combination with increasing vacancy rates. Racially charged tension, during the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s, further contributed to middle-class flight and the decline of many neighborhoods. As a result of new policies demanding that, for racial balance in schools, children be bused into other districts, parents who worried about their children attending the demographically adjusted schools often relocated to the suburbs, where this was not a concern. Some neighborhoods were considered undesirable by homeowners in the late 1960s and the area's population began decreasing. In addition, post World War II, rent control policies have been proposed by one author as contributing to the decline, by giving building owners little motivation to keep up their properties.[207] New York mayor, John Lindsay (1966–1973), suggested that lack of education and high unemployment, limited the housing options for the remaining low income tenants and that this prompted the reduced upkeep by landlords.[208] In either case, while desirable housing options were scarce, vacancies further increased. In the late 1960s, by the time the city decided to consolidate welfare households citywide, the vacancy rate of homes in southern Bronx was already the highest of any place in the city.

The 1970s brought New York City's financial crisis,[209] urban decay,[210] soaring crime rates, and white flight.[211] At the same time, significant poverty reached as far north as Fordham Road. Around this time, the Bronx experienced some of its worst instances of urban decay. The media attention brought the Bronx, especially its southern half, into common parlance nationwide.

The phrase "The Bronx is burning," attributed to Howard Cosell during a Yankees World Series game in 1977, refers to the arson epidemic caused by the total economic collapse of the South Bronx during the 1970s. During the game, as ABC switched to a generic helicopter shot of the exterior of Yankee Stadium, an uncontrolled fire could clearly be seen burning in the ravaged South Bronx surrounding the park.

The early 1970s saw South Bronx property values continue to plummet to record lows. A progressively vicious cycle began where large numbers of tenements and multi-story, multi-family apartment buildings (left vacant by white flight) sat abandoned and unsaleable for long periods of time, which, coupled with a stagnant economy and an extremely high unemployment rate, produced a strong attraction for criminal elements such as street gangs, which were exploding in number and beginning to support themselves with large-scale drug dealing in the area. Abandoned property also attracted large numbers of squatters such as the indigent, drug addicts and the mentally ill, who further lowered the borough's quality of living. This trend also made the crime rate in the area go to record highs. The massive citywide spending cuts also left the few remaining building inspectors and fire marshals unable to enforce living standards or punish code violations. This encouraged slumlords and absentee landlords to neglect and ignore their property and allowed for gangs to set up protected enclaves and lay claim to entire buildings, which then spread crime and fear of crime to nearby unaffected apartments in a domino effect. Police statistics show that as the crime wave moved north across the Bronx, the remaining white tenants in the South Bronx (mostly elderly Jews) were preferentially targeted for violent crime by the influx of young, minority criminals because they were seen as easy prey; this became so common that the street slang terms "crib job" (meaning how elderly residents were as helpless as infants) and "push in" (meaning what would now be called a home invasion robbery) were coined specifically in reference to them.[212]

Local South Bronx residents themselves also burned down vacant properties in their own neighborhoods. Much of this was reportedly done by those who had already worked stripping and burning buildings for pay: the ashes of burned down properties could be sifted for salable scrap metal. Other fires were caused by unsafe electrical wiring, fires set indoors for heating, and random vandalism associated with the general crime situation. Flawed HUD and city policies also encouraged local South Bronx residents to burn down their own buildings. Under the regulations, Section 8 tenants who were burned out of their current housing were granted immediate priority status for another apartment, potentially in a better part of the city. After the establishment of the (then) state-of-the-art Co-op City, there was a spike in fires as tenants began burning down their Section 8 housing in an attempt to jump to the front of the 2- to 3-year-long waiting list for the new units.[212] HUD regulations also authorized lump-sum aid payments of up to $1000 to those who could prove they had lost property due to a fire in their Section 8 housing; although these payments were supposed to be investigated for fraud by a HUD employee before being signed off on, very little investigation was done and some HUD employees and social services workers were accused of turning a blind eye to suspicious fires or even advising tenants on the best way to take advantage of the HUD policies. On multiple occasions, firefighters were reported to have shown up to tenement fires only to find all the residents at an address waiting calmly with their possessions already on the curb.

By the time of Cosell's 1977 commentary, dozens of buildings were being burnt in the South Bronx every day, sometimes whole blocks at a time and usually far more than the fire department could keep up with, leaving the area perpetually blanketed in a pall of smoke. Firefighters from the period reported responding to as many as 7 fully involved structure fires in a single shift, too many to even bother returning to the station house between calls. The local police precincts—already struggling and failing to contain the massive wave of drug and gang crime invading the Bronx—had long since stopped bothering to investigate the fires, as there were simply too many to track. During this period, the NYPD's 41st Precinct Station House at 1086 Simpson Street became famously known as "Fort Apache, The Bronx" as it struggled to deal with the overwhelming surge of violent crime, which for the entirety of the 1970s (and part of the early 1980s) made South Bronx the murder, rape, robbery, aggravated assault and arson capital of America.

The Bronx entered 1980 as urban decay's very portrait. Trailing the New York City financial crisis that in 1975 nearly closed the city's government—an insurance company bailed out the city once the White House refused to help—was New York City's 1977 blackout, which triggered massive looting that bankrupted stores.[213] Many Bronx neighborhoods, resembling rubble by 1979, went aflame, while apartment buildings were abandoned or else sold to lesser landlords amid severe, rapid urban decay.[213][214][215][216] and its high schools became notorious as the city's worst,[217] while the crack epidemic struck,[215][218] By 1980, the 41st was renamed "The Little House on the Prairie", as fully 2/3 of the 94,000 residents originally served by the precinct had fled, leaving the fortified station house as one of the few structures in the neighborhood (and the sole building on Simpson Street) that had not been abandoned or burnt out.[219]

In total, over 40% of the South Bronx was burned or abandoned between 1970 and 1980, with 44 census tracts losing more than 50% and seven more than 97% of their buildings to arson, abandonment, or both.[220] The appearance was frequently compared to that of a bombed-out and evacuated European city following World War II.[221] On October 5, 1977, President Jimmy Carter paid an unscheduled visit to Charlotte Street, while in New York to attend a conference at the United Nations. Charlotte Street at the time was a three-block devastated area of vacant lots and burned-out and abandoned buildings. The street had been so ravaged that part of it had been taken off official city maps in 1974. Carter instructed Patricia Roberts Harris, head of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, to take steps to salvage the area.[222]


Neighborhoods surrounding Bedford–Stuyvesant such as Brownsville, Canarsie, and East New York were previously majority Italian and Jewish but have in the 20th century shifted into majority Black and Hispanic communities.[223] With the demographic shift that occurred between the 1950s and 1970s, the crime rate in Brooklyn increased and the borough lost almost 500,000 people, most of them White.[224] Those residents moved to neighboring boroughs of Queens and Staten Island, in addition to suburban counties of Long Island and New Jersey.


Gang wars erupted in 1961. During the same year, Alfred E. Clark of The New York Times referred to Bedford–Stuyvesant as "Brooklyn's Little Harlem".[225] One of the first urban riots of the era took place there. Social and racial divisions in the city contributed to the tensions, which climaxed when attempts at community control in the nearby Ocean Hill-Brownsville school district pitted some black community residents and activists (from both inside and outside the area) against teachers, the majority of whom were white, many of them Jewish. Charges of racism were a common part of social tensions at the time. In 1964, race riots broke out in the Manhattan neighborhood of Harlem after an Irish American NYPD lieutenant, Thomas Gilligan, shot and killed an African American teenager, James Powell, aged 15.[226] The riot spread to Bedford–Stuyvesant and resulted in the destruction and looting of many neighborhood businesses, many of which were Jewish-owned. Race relations between the NYPD and the city's black community were strained as police were seen as an instrument of oppression and racially biased law enforcement; further, at that time, few black policemen were present on the force.[227] In predominantly black New York neighborhoods, arrests and prosecutions for drug-related crimes were higher than anywhere else in the city, despite evidence that illegal drugs were used at at least the same rate in the white community, further contributing to the problems between the white dominated police force and black community. Coincidentally, the 1964 riot took place throughout the NYPD's 28th and 32nd precinct, in Harlem, and the 79th precinct, in Bedford–Stuyvesant, which at one time were the only three police precincts in the NYPD where black police officers were allowed to patrol.[228] Race riots followed in 1967 and 1968, as part of the political and racial tensions in the United States of the era, aggravated by continued high unemployment among blacks, continued de facto segregation in housing, and the failure to enforce civil rights laws.

In the late 1980s, resistance to illegal drug-dealing included, according to Rita Webb Smith, following police arrests with a civilian Sunni Muslim 40-day patrol of several blocks near a mosque, the same group having earlier evicted drug sellers at a landlord's request, although that also resulted in arrests of the Muslims for "burglary, menacing and possession of weapons", resulting in a probationary sentence.[229] However, many properties were renovated after the start of the 21st century, and crime declined. New clothing stores, mid-century collector furniture stores, florists, bakeries, cafes, and restaurants opened, and Fresh Direct began delivering to the area. Despite the recent changes, violent crime remains a problem in the area. The two precincts that cover Bedford–Stuyvesant reported a combined 37 murders in 2010.[230][231] The 81st precinct was also accused in 2010 of not reporting crimes and recording felonies as misdemeanors to make the crime rate appear lower.[232] Despite slight community changes to the area, the threat of crime taking over certain neighborhoods did not disappear. Much like Brownsville and East New York, Bedford–Stuyvesant is still well known for drive-bys, robberies, murders, and assaults.


Starting in the mid-19th century, the United States became a magnet for immigrants seeking to escape poverty in their home countries. After arriving in New York, many new arrivals ended up living in squalor in the slums of the Five Points neighborhood, an area between Broadway and the Bowery, northeast of New York City Hall. By the 1820s, the area was home to many gambling dens and brothels, and was known as a dangerous place to go. In 1842, Charles Dickens visited the area and was appalled at the horrendous living conditions he had seen.[233] The area was so notorious that it even caught the attention of Abraham Lincoln, who visited the area before his Cooper Union speech in 1860.[234] The predominantly Irish Five Points Gang was one of the country's first major organized crime entities.[235]

As Italian immigration grew in the early 20th century many joined ethnic gangs, including Al Capone, who got his start in crime with the Five Points Gang.[236] The Mafia (also known as Cosa Nostra) first developed in the mid-19th century in Sicily and spread to the East Coast of the United States during the late 19th century following waves of Sicilian and Southern Italian emigration. Lucky Luciano established Cosa Nostra in Manhattan, forming alliances with other criminal enterprises, including the Jewish mob, led by Meyer Lansky, the leading Jewish gangster of that period.[237] from 1920 to 1933, Prohibition helped create a thriving black market in liquor, upon which the Mafia was quick to capitalize.[237]

Since 1990, crime in Manhattan has plummeted in all categories tracked by the CompStat profile. A borough that saw 503 murders in 1990 has seen a drop of nearly 88% to 62 in 2008. Robbery and burglary are down by more than 80% during the period, and auto theft has been reduced by more than 93%. In the seven major crime categories tracked by the system, overall crime has declined by more than 75% since 1990, and year-to-date statistics through May 2009 show continuing declines.[238]


Main article: Crime in Harlem

Harlem, a large neighborhood within the northern section of the New York City borough of Manhattan, was once known as one of the worst areas for poverty and crime in New York City and the United States.[239] Though both the absolute number and rate of crime has decreased since the 1990s, crime still exist today in the neighborhood, mainly related to petty theft, drugs, and prostitution. As of 1995, the leading cause of death among black males in Harlem is homicide.[240] According to a survey published in 2013 by Union Settlement Association, residents of East Harlem perceive crime as their biggest single concern; at the same, the police department's statistics showed an increase in crime in 2013 by 17 percent over the previous year.[241]


The early days of Chinatown were dominated by Chinese "tongs" (now sometimes rendered neutrally as "associations"), which were a mixture of clan associations, landsman's associations, political alliances (Kuomintang (Nationalists) vs Communist Party of China), and more secretly, crime syndicates. The associations started to give protection from harassment due to anti-Chinese sentiment. Each of these associations was aligned with a street gang. The associations were a source of assistance to new immigrants – giving out loans, aiding in starting business, and so forth.

Until the 1980s, the eastern portion of Chinatown east of the Bowery, which is considered part of the Lower East Side was developing more slowly as being part of Chinatown, the proportion and concentration of Chinese residents was lower and more scattered than the western section, and there was still a higher proportion of Non-Chinese residents than Chinatown's western section consisting of Jewish, Puerto Ricans, and a few Italians and African Americans.[242] During the 1970s and 1980s, the eastern portion of Chinatown east of the Bowery was a very quiet section, and like in the rest of the Lower East Side, many people and especially many Chinese people were afraid to walk through or even reside on the streets east of the Bowery due to deteriorating building conditions and high crime rates such as gang activities, robberies, building burglaries, and rape as well as fear of racial tensions with other ethnic people that were still residing there. In addition, there were fewer businesses and there were significant amount of vacant properties not occupied.[243] Chinese female garment workers were especially targets of robbery and rape a lot on their way home from work and often left work together as a group to protect each other as they were heading home.[244][245][246][247][248] In May 1985, a gang-related shooting injured seven people, including a 4-year-old boy, at 30 East Broadway in Chinatown. Two males, who were 15 and 16 years old and were members of a Chinese street gang, were arrested and convicted.[249][250]

Similarly, crime in Chinatown increased due to the poor relations between Cantonese and Fuzhouese immigrants. The Fuzhou immigration pattern started out in the 1970s very similarly like the Cantonese immigration during the late 1800s to early 1900s that had established Manhattan's Chinatown on Mott Street, Pell Street, and Doyers Street. Starting out as mostly men arriving first and then later on bringing their families over. The beginning influx of Fuzhou immigrants arriving during the 1980s and 1990s were entering into a Chinese community that was extremely Cantonese dominated. Due to the Fuzhou immigrants having no legal status and inability to speak Cantonese, many were denied jobs in Chinatown as a result causing many of them to resort to crimes to make a living that began to dominate the crimes going on in Chinatown. There was a lot of Cantonese resentment against Fuzhou immigrants arriving into Chinatown.[251][252][253][254][255][256]

During the mid-to-late 80s, Chinatown began to experience an influx of Vietnamese refugees from the Vietnam War, the majority of them being boat people. Due to language barriers, since the Vietnamese refugees could not speak Mandarin or Cantonese which was solely used for most social services including banks, they struggled to survive and lived on the fringes of the community. Eventually, many of the Vietnamese youths within the city started to band together, forming several various gang factions within the city. Under the leadership of a wealthy enterprising Vietnamese immigrant David Thai, who coalesced the many then separated gangs into one which became known as Born to Kill, the Vietnamese youths began going on a violent crime spree in Chinatown, committing, robberies, extortion and racketeering, drawing much resentment from the Chinese community.[257][258][259][260]


Broken windows theory

Main article: Broken windows theory

The broken windows theory is a criminological theory of the norm-setting and signalling effect of urban disorder and vandalism on additional crime and anti-social behavior. The theory states that maintaining and monitoring urban environments in a well-ordered condition may stop further vandalism and escalation into more serious crime.


Main article: Compstat

CompStat[261] is the name given to the New York City Police Department's accountability process and has since been replicated in many other departments. CompStat is a management philosophy or organizational management tool for police departments, roughly equivalent to Six Sigma or TQM, and was not a computer system or software package in its original form. Through an evolutionary process, however, some commercial entities have created turnkey packages including computer systems, software, mobile devices, and other implements collectively assembled under the heading of CompStat. Instead, CompStat is a multilayered dynamic approach to crime reduction, quality of life improvement, and personnel and resource management. CompStat employs Geographic Information Systems and was intended to map crime and identify problems. In weekly meetings, ranking NYPD executives meet with local precinct commanders from one of the eight patrol boroughs in New York City to discuss the problems. They devise strategies and tactics to solve problems, reduce crime, and ultimately improve quality of life in their assigned area.

Muslim surveillance

After the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, the NYPD surreptitiously developed a Muslim surveillance program. When the Associated Press published reports on NYPD's spying on Muslims in New York City and neighboring New Jersey, the program came to light and much controversy was raised. Muslims were spied on in mosques, restaurants, streets, public places and Muslim groups, and websites were scrutinized. It resulted in much confusion and anger from Muslim communities in the United States, as well as support from New York City mayor Bloomberg. The FBI criticized the spying as unhealthy.[262][263][264][265][266] Associated Press won 2012 Pulitzer Prize for the investigation.[267] Later, in June 2012, Muslims in New Jersey sued the NYPD over the spying.[268] However, the lawsuit was dismissed in February 2014 by a federal judge who said that the surveillance of the Muslim community was a lawful effort to prevent terrorism, not a civil-rights violation.[269] The surveillance program was disbanded on April 15, 2014 after a meeting that was held with several Muslim advocates on April 8, 2014. It was also revealed that the surveillance program failed to generate even a single lead.[270]


Law enforcement in New York City is carried out by numerous law enforcement agencies. New York City has the highest concentration of law enforcement agencies in the United States. As with the rest of the US, agencies operate at federal and state levels. However, New York City's unique nature means many more operate at lower levels. Many private police forces also operate in New York City. The New York City Police Department is the main police agency in the city.


The NYPD has come under scrutiny for its use of stop-and-frisk, implemented under Bloomberg's tenure as mayor.[271][272][273]

It is a practice of the New York City Police Department by which police officers stop and question hundreds of thousands of pedestrians annually, and frisk them for weapons and other contraband. The rules for stop, question and frisk are found in New York State Criminal Procedure Law section 140.50, and are based on the decision of the United States Supreme Court in the case of Terry v. Ohio.[274][275] About 684,000 people were stopped in 2011.[274][276][277] The vast majority of these people were African-American or Latino.[274][276][277] Some judges have found that these stops are not based on reasonable suspicion of criminal activity.[278]

On October 31, 2013, the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit blocked the order requiring changes to the New York Police Department's stop-and-frisk program and removed Judge Shira Scheindlin from the case.[279][280] On November 9, 2013, the city asked a federal appeals court to vacate Scheindlin's orders.[281][282] Bill de Blasio, who succeeded Bloomberg as mayor in 2014, has pledged to reform the stop-and-frisk program, and is calling for new leadership at the NYPD, an inspector general, and a strong racial profiling bill.[283]

See also


  1. 1 2 Langan; Matthew R. Durose (December 3–5, 2003). "The Remarkable Drop in Crime in New York City". 2003 International Conference on Crime. Rome, Italy. Retrieved April 17, 2009.
  2. 1 2 Chung, Jen (January 1, 2015). "NYC Murder Rate Drops To New Historic Low In 2014". The Gothamist.
  4. Goodman, J. David; Baker, Al (December 31, 2014). "Murders in New York Drop to a Record Low, but Officers Aren't Celebrating". The New York Times.
  5. 1 2 Johnson, Bruce D.; Golub, Andrew; Eloise Dunlap (2006). "The Rise and Decline of Hard Drugs, Drug Markets, and Violence in Inner-City New York". In Blumstein, Alfred; Wallman, Joel. The Crime Drop in America. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-86279-5.
  6. 1 2 Karmen, Andrew (2000). New York Murder Mystery: The True Story Behind the Crime Crash of the 1990s. NYU Press. ISBN 0-8147-4717-5.
  7. "The Safe Cities Index 2015" (PDF). The Economist Intelligence Unit.
  8. Kevin Drum. "America's Real Criminal Element: Lead". Mother Jones. Retrieved April 29, 2014.
  9. 1 2 Lardner, James; Reppetto, Thomas (2000). NYPD: A City and Its Police. Owl Books.
  10. 1 2 3 Lankevich, George L. (1998). American Metropolis: A History of New York City. NYU Press. pp. 84–85. ISBN 0-8147-5186-5.
  11. Multiple sources are used:
    • Patricia Cline Cohen, The Mystery of Helen Jewett: Romantic Fiction and the Eroticization of Violence, 17 Legal Studies Forum 2 (1993)
    • Patricia Cline Cohen, The Murder of Helen Jewett. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1998
    • Ramsland, Katherine, The Sensational Murder of Helen Jewett, Retrieved March 15, 2012.
    • Timothy J. Gilfoyle, City of Eros: New York City, Prostitution, and the Commercialization of Sex, 1790–1920. New York: W.W. Norton, 1992
    • Andie Tucher, Froth and Scum: Truth, Beauty, Goodness, and the Ax Murder in America's First Mass Medium. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1994, pp. 35–36.
  12. Nathan-Kazis, Benjamin (January 13, 2010). "A Death in the Family". Tablet. Retrieved April 27, 2015.
  13. Barnes, David M. (1863). The Draft Riots in New York, July 1863: The Metropolitan Police, Their Services During Riot. Baker & Godwin. pp. 5–6, 12.
  14. 1 2 Foner, E. (1988). Reconstruction: America's Unfinished Revolution, 1863–1877, The New American Nation series, pp. 32–33, New York: Harper & Row; ISBN 0-06-093716-5.
  15. "The Draft in the Civil War",
  16. William Bryk, "The Draft Riots, Part II", New York Press blogpost, August 2, 2002.
  17. "Maj. Gen. John E. Wool Official Reports for the New York Draft Riots". Shotgun's Home of the American Civil War blogsite. Retrieved August 16, 2006.
  18. Harris, Leslie M. (2003). In the Shadow of Slavery: African Americans in New York City, 1626–1863. University of Chicago Press. pp. 279–88. ISBN 0226317757.
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