Don’t Take the Wrong Lessons from NYC’s Murder Drop

Heather Mac Donald, National Reveiw, December 28, 2017

Proactive policing still matters. Cop critics who assiduously ignored the 20 percent increase in the national homicide rate over the previous two years have suddenly become enthusiastic purveyors of crime statistics. Fueling their newfound interest in crime data is the announcement that the New York City homicide rate is at a near-60-year low. That homicide drop shows that proactive policing is irrelevant to crime levels, say these policing skeptics. {snip}

… New York City’s formerly high-crime neighborhoods have experienced a stunning degree of gentrification over the last 15 years, thanks to the proactive-policing-induced conquest of crime. It is that gentrification which is now helping fuel the ongoing crime drop. Urban hipsters are flocking to areas that once were the purview of drug dealers and pimps, trailing in their wake legitimate commerce and street life, which further attracts law-abiding activity and residents in a virtuous cycle of increasing public safety. The degree of demographic change is startling. In Brooklyn’s Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood, for example, the number of white residents rose 1,235 percent from 2000 to 2015, while the black population decreased by 17 percent, reports City Lab. In Bushwick, Brooklyn, the number of whites rose 610 percent over that same decade and a half; the black population was down 22 percent. Central Harlem’s white population rose 846 percent; the black share dropped 10 percent. In 2000, whites were about three-quarters of the black population in Brownsville-Ocean Hill; by 2015, there were twice as many whites as blacks. In 2000, whites were one-third of the black population in Crown Heights North and Prospect Heights; now they exceed the black population by 20,000. The Brooklyn Navy Yards has now been declared the next cool place to be by the tech industry. Business owners are moving their residences as well as their enterprises to the area.

This demographic transformation has enormous implications for crime. A black New Yorker is 50 times more likely to commit a shooting than a white New Yorker, according to perpetrator identifications provided to the police by witnesses to, and victims of, those shootings. Those victims are overwhelmingly minority themselves. When the racial balance of a neighborhood changes radically, given those crime disparities, its violent-crime rate will as well. {snip}

The high-crime areas of Baltimore and Chicago have not been gentrified. {snip}

The claim that proactive policing is a useless crime-fighting strategy ignores a recent report by the National Academy of Sciences. {snip} No other policing strategies assessed by the NAS team produced more powerful results. If, after two decades of proactive-policing enabled gentrification, New York has maintained its crime drop despite the drop in documented stops, that doesn’t mean that places like Chicago and Baltimore can do without such interventions. Stops in Chicago dropped 82 percent in 2016; there were 4,300 people shot there last year, overwhelmingly black, or one person every two hours.

In New York, however, informal social controls are now supplementing if not supplanting formal police control in formerly high-crime areas. That is the ideal world. An active police presence is a second-best solution to public safety; the best solution is family. The NYPD’s unwavering commitment to Compstat — the weekly crime-analysis meetings in which top brass grill precinct commanders about crime in their jurisdictions — has also kept crime under control, by imposing accountability on police leaders and focusing attention relentlessly on emerging crime patterns.

Libertarians and the anti-cop Left have also seized on this year’s 33 percent drop in gun murders of police officers to declare that there has been no war on cops. Tell that to officers in the streets who lived for three years under the pall of the ubiquitous false narrative that policing is systemically racist and that cops are engaged in an epidemic of racially biased police shootings of black men. Tell it to officers who encountered acute levels of hostility during the height of the Black Lives Matter movement, like the Chicago cop who said that he had never experienced so much hatred in his 19 years on the job. The war on cops was always predominantly a rhetorical one. But last year, at the height of the anti-cop frenzy, gun murders of officers rose 53 percent. Back then, the cop-haters assiduously ignored that increase. Now, however, they are trumpeting this year’s drop in gun murders.

It is too soon to know definitively if the animus toward officers has fallen and if any such fall is behind the welcome drop in officer slayings. {snip}

Equally important, the mainstream media have lost interest in their anti-cop narrative. They now lack an echo chamber in the White House, and focusing on Trump’s alleged misdeeds is an all-consuming activity. {snip}

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