New York Murder Mystery: The True Story behind the Crime Crash of the 1990s

New York Murder Mystery: The True Story behind the Crime Crash of the 1990s

New York Murder Mystery: The True Story behind the Crime Crash of the 1990s

New York Murder Mystery: The True Story behind the Crime Crash of the 1990s

Synopsis

Andrew Karmen tracks a quarter century of murder in the city Americans have most commonly associated with rampant street crime. Providing both a local and a national context for New York's plunging crime rate, Karmen tests and debunks the many self-serving explanations for the decline. While crediting a more effective police force for its efforts, Karmen also emphasizes the decline of the crack epidemic, skyrocketing incarceration rates, favorable demographic trends, a healthy economy, an influx of hard working and law abiding immigrants, a rise in college enrollment, and an unexpected outbreak of improved behavior by young men growing up in poverty stricken neighborhoods. New York Murder Mystery is the most authoritative study to date of why crime rates rise and fall.

Excerpt

After teaching criminology courses at John Jay College of Criminal Justice for nearly twenty years, I began to seriously study the decline in murders in New York City during the summer of 1995. Craig Horowitz, a journalist writing a feature story for New York magazine, was referred to me by the new director of the college’s Office of Public Relations. Mr. Horowitz explained that he was working on a feature story entitled “The Suddenly Safer City: The End of Crime as We Know It.” I told him that I thought it was premature to make such a bold prediction after only one and a half years of impressive declines (but his forecast was correct and I was wrong). I also volunteered the standard criminology textbook answer, which I believed then and still believe today: that the street-crime problem cannot be brought under control until its root causes are eradicated. My views were just the foil that he was looking for, so Mr. Horowitz wrote (1995:23): “Their [Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and Commissioner William Bratton] victory appears to be a repudiation of three decades of received wisdom that crime is inextricably connected to economic deprivation and social injustice…. Many sociologists and criminologists, however, remain reluctant to credit the Police Department. It would be an admission that they’ve spent careers promoting false assumptions.”

After being challenged in this way, I decided to immerse myself in the available data in order to try to get to the bottom of this unfolding mystery.

John Jay College put together an interdisciplinary research team to study the ebbing crime wave. In late 1996, we held a press conference . . .

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