City Journal Spring 2014

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Rudolph W. Giuliani
What New York Owes James Q. Wilson « Back to Story

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During Giuliani's tenure the crime rate dropped much faster than during the previous three years. His methods worked.

In 1991 total crime dropped 1.5%, in 1992 it dropped 5.9%, in 1993 4.8%. That's an average drop of 4.1% per year.

Under Giuliani in 1994 it dropped 8.8%, in 1995 10.2%, 1996 9.1%, 1997 5.6%, 1998 8.1%, 1999 8.5%, 2000 1.4%, and 2001 5.5%.

Crime dropped 45% under G. from the 1993 total. That's an average of 7.2% drop per year. That's a 75% improvement over the average change 1991-1993.
"Freakenomics, only a liberal would try to claim that the drop in the crime rate in the 90s was the result of legalizing abortion 20 years earlier and those criminals simply were never born."

Foncool, as I stated in my earlier comment, we simply don't know what causes the crime rate to go up or go down. There are many theories. What is undisputable is that NYC's crime rate reached its peak in 1990 and started falling dramatically (as it did in other parts of the country) fully three years before Giuliani became mayor on January 1,1994 and began implementing Wilson's ideas. (The crime rate continued to fall in NYC long after Giuliani left office at the end of 2001. Just last week, I read in the NYTimes that the murder rate had fallen to its lowest rate in 40 years when statistics started to be collected.) It's hard to argue that Giuliani was responsible for causing the crime rate to fall, when it had begun falling fast three years earlier. Since Wilson first forumlated his ideas in 1982, it's too bad someone didn't implement them sooner so a true test could have been made while the crime rate was still climbing. Incidentally, I am far from being a liberal. As a paleoconservative, I still retain a respect for the facts and believe that all theories, whether liberal or conservative, must be tested against the facts.

BTW a recent controversy has emerged in NYC over stop and frisk laws. Forbes had a recent article which said this about the presumed connection between the s-and-f policies and the falling murder rate:
" The Daily News reports that according to the NYPD’s top spokesman, Deputy Commissioner Paul Browne, “Over the past 10 years, there were 5,430 murders in New York City, compared with 11,058 in the decade before Mayor Michael Bloomberg took office.” Police Commissioner Ray Kelly directly links a significant drop in the city’s murder rate with the stop-and-frisk policy.

Is it so? Despite all the talk of declining crime and increased numbers of stop-and-frisks, are the two connected? The short answer is no! All of the graphs in today’s post make it clear that the astronomical increase in stop-and-frisks came well after the significant decrease in number of murders, and thus cannot be the cause of the drop."

Amen. I guess many of us have ideas. But there are only a few Men of Ideas, and J.Q. Wilson was one.
Freakenomics, only a liberal would try to claim that the drop in the crime rate in the 90s was the result of legalizing abortion 20 years earlier and those criminals simply were never born.
I WAS A SGT.IN MANN. SOUTH WHEN BRATTEN AND MAPLES STARTED THE BROKEN WINDOW THEORY.LIKE THE BIBICAL THOMAS I HAD MY DOUBTS.I COULD NOT SEE CAUSE AND EFFECT.IT WORKED BUT TO MY MIND JACK MAPLES CONTRIBUTION OF CONSTAT WAS THE GREATER GIFT.IT FIXED RESPONSIBLE ON THE PCT. COMMANDER AND SHOWED PATTERN OF CRIME THAT OFFICERS COULD WORK ON.OVERALL MY HAT IS OFF TO GIULIANI.HE HAD THE VISION AND THE COURAGE TO BRING POLICING INTO THE 20TH CENTURY DISPITE LUDDITES LIKE ME WHO DIDN'T THINK IT WOULD WORK.
Has Rudy Giuliani still not read Freakonomic?
SpikeaColchester May 13, 2012 at 5:46 PM
A very interesting article. The first time I became aware of the "Broken Windows theory" was in Malcolm Gladwell's 'Tipping Point" Gladwell gives an outstanding example of graffiti artists painting up subway cars.
Grateful New Yorker May 13, 2012 at 5:37 PM
Rudy Guiliani: the greatest mayor since Peter Stuyvesant.
PJ: "Our city is struggling with the homeless/vagrant and cannot figure out how to lawfully remove them."

That is a good question. Anyone care to address it?
I went to U of R with James Q;
you knew then he was going to impact.
He was a champion debater and respected his
opponent but outdid them with knowledge
and quite passion.
Although Giuliani states that he became mayor in 1993, he was only elected in November 1993 and did not become mayor until January 1, 1994. His misleading statement becomes important when one considers that the crime rate in NYC started dropping dramatically in 1990, more than three years before Giuliani became mayor and started implementing Wilson's ideas. Similar drops in the crime rate started in other American cities about the same time. Frankly, we have little idea of what causes the crime rate to go up or go down, but way too much credit has been given to Wilson's ideas for causing the crime rate to drop in NYC. It is an example of the philosophical fallacy of "post hoc ergo propter hoc." It's just as fallacious to credit President Clinton's cops on the street program, which was not enacted until 1995, with causing the great reduction in crime across the country.
This is a very nice homage and much deserved. I wish that Rudy has spend a little more space to explain exactly what the Broken Windows Theory is, the reason it works and the detailed evidence that it works. He should also explain to out policy community how relevant this theory in to other areas of criminal law. In particular drug laws, immigration laws and tax laws are ripe areas for application. In all these areas the dominant enforcement principal is currently to "focus on the big stuff". The opinion is that there are so many offenders that really enforcing the law is simply too difficult. The broken windows idea says that this is the exact wrong thing to do. For example if we really want to solve illegal immigration then focusing on deportation of aliens who have committed major crimes (as Obama has advocated) is a total disaster and will only make the problem worse.
Justanaveragejoe May 13, 2012 at 9:46 AM
I studied James Q. Wilson as a young undergrad and his works have stuck with me. Wilson used conservative logic in his thinking, not pie in the sky liberal- Marxist theory that is unsupportable and well, just fuzzy headed. We have too many costly social programs that do nothing but line the pockets of bureaucrats and contractors beholden to the government and liberal interests. Humans don't work like the liberal-Marxist think, but more the way Wilson saw them.

New York and other cities have a lot to thank him for.
And thank you Mayor Giuliani for making a great city great again!
I comment your success. But how do you, for instance, "remove them from the streets" when you speak of street nuisance crime? Our city is struggling with the homeless/vagrant and cannot figure out how to lawfully remove them.
Gee, Giuliani giving credit to someone else beside his corrupt police chief