January 17, 2008
The other day, I'd been reminded about some of the most striking statistics I'd seen last year, which were from the NYPD crime stats for 9th Precinct, where I live. (That link is to a PDF with stats for last week.) Each precinct in the city files reports every week, and those reports also include comparisons of statistics for prior years.
But what's amazing is the trends in violent crime shown over the past 20 years. CompStat reports show the numbers from 1990 until 2006, and over that time, rapes are down 70% from 41 to 12. Burglaries are down 85%, from 1420 to 209. And murders? There weren't any. In my neighborhood, people don't kill each other. In 1990, they did, 23 times. Robberies over the same timeframe are down 81%, and felony assaults are down 69%. And all of this in a neighborhood where, just a year before they started tracking these stats, we had a police-incited riot that divided the entire neighborhood. Today, there's a dog run and a kids' playground just steps from where the riot began.
Now, of course, that's no consolation to the people who've still suffered from the crimes that do go on, and of course it doesn't account for other precincts where crime is worse. But the fundamental character of what it means to live here is so incredibly different from the perception that so many outsiders have of what it means to live in New York City. You will always have some violent crime -- an overwhelming majority of the personal violence that does happen could fall under the description of crimes of passion, people beating up their romantic rivals or things like that. But the day-to-day threat of random street violence is measurably, fundamentally reduced. Along with the massive improvements made to so many parks across all five boroughs, we are truly in a golden age for public space in New York. These numbers represent just one part of that, but it's an important part.
More from the New York Daily News, and detailed city-wide crime reports going back to 1960 are available here. Choire is also blogging about many of the same topics in his guest posts on kottke.org today.