Sorry, but I Feel Safer in New York Than London

By Holden, Anthony | Daily Mail (London), February 9, 2002 | Go to article overview

Sorry, but I Feel Safer in New York Than London


Holden, Anthony, Daily Mail (London)


Byline: ANTHONY HOLDEN

AS London street crime soars out of control, with violent muggings and carjackings an ever uglier part of daily life, New York has just recorded its lowest crime levels in four decades.

Three years since moving to Manhattan, I can endorse this week's words from the editor of Vogue, Alexandra Shulman, after her six-year- old son and his nanny became the latest victims of carjacking thugs: 'You feel safer walking in New York these days than on the streets of London.' When I said as much myself in a newspaper two years ago, after 12 months living and working here in New York, the predictable result was spluttering British outrage.

But the grim statistics behind this new transatlantic truth, however-unwelcome to British ears, have since grown even worse - while the main legacy of New York's ex-mayor Rudy Giuliani, for all his post-September 11 heroics, is a city whose streets are safer than they have ever been.

The streets of London have become as mean and dangerous as Britons used to think the seamy sidewalks of New York were, while daily life around Manhattan, as I personally can vouch, is now as secure and congenial as London street life used to be.

The capitalist ideals which built New York into the self- styled greatest city in the world, then saw it degenerate into a scary Third World-like zone of violent crime and social disintegration, have been turned into a rejuvenating force for social good.

Behind Miss Shulman's remarks lurk uncomfortable truths for a Prime Minister elected on a pledge to be 'tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime'.

Muggings in London last autumn - between 4,000 and 5,000 a month - were running at almost double those for the previous year.

There have been more than 90 carjackings in the last year alone.

And it is now a lethal liability to carry a mobile phone.

In New York, by contrast, the police chief appointed by Giuliani's successor, mayor Mike Bloomberg, has launched Operation Clean Sweep against such 'quality of life' offences as begging,

prostitution and disorderly conduct, even drinking in the street.

Police commissioner Ray Kelly can afford to concentrate on such apparently mundane offences because the outgoing mayor's 'zero tolerance' policy reduced street crime to its lowest in 40 years.

Giuliani's methods were draconian but dramatically effective.

From the Mafia via drug dealers to the 'squeegee' merchants who menaced motorists at traffic lights, he ruthlessly drove Manhattan's least savoury elements into the outer boroughs and beyond.

When Giuliani came to office in 1993, New Yorkers had become inured to violent crime. With 2,000 murders a year, it was a city 'having a nervous breakdown', as immigrant British editor Harold Evans put it.

Yet last month's 33 homicides in a city of 8million was the lowest since records began in 1962. New York's violent crime rate has been declining as fast as London's has been rising.

Giuliani's genius was to see that the forces of capitalism which had made so many New Yorkers prosperous could be just as effective at housing the homeless, putting welfare scroungers to work, ridding the streets of muggers and drug dealers, even banishing organised crime. …

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