How New York City Reclaimed Its Streets

Daily Mail (London), May 28, 2004 | Go to article overview

How New York City Reclaimed Its Streets


Byline: DAVID COX

NEW YORK was the most crime ridden city in the world until a 'zero tolerance' crackdown slashed the annual number of murders by 80 per cent.

In 1993 there were 2,500 murders - with at least one per day on the subway - and one in 18 people reported they had been the victim of a violent crime.

But that year, a tough-talking U.S.

Federal Prosecutor from Brooklyn, Rudolph Giuliani, won the mayoral election by promising that things would change.

Within ten years he had reduced the annual murder rate to 500 - the lowest level since his childhood. He said: 'The core of the turnaround has to do with public safety and quality of life.' Trumpeting his war- cry of 'zero tolerance' for even the most minor crimes, he ordered the New York Police Department to clamp down on everything from beggars to illegal immigrants, and he personally led campaigns against guns, drug dealers and youth violence.

Working from the bottom up, he hoped to prevent teenage tearaways from turning into violent offenders by showing them the full force of the law.

At the same time he forced police commanders to be more proactive by making them directly responsible for crime statistics in their area.

By the time Bill Bratton teamed up with Mayor Giuliani in 1994 as NYPD Commissioner, police numbers had already risen by an extra 6,000 officers and 7,000 transit and housing personnel, swelling the ranks to about 38,000 for a population of 7.3 million.

This compared, at the time, with about 28,000 police officers in London for a population of 7.1 million.

At first, the hardline policy was not popular with New York citizens.

Complaints against the police for excessive force rose by 61. …

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