Idea Of The Day

Giuliani’s New York

Rudolph Giuliani has just a few days left in office, although the accolades for the New York mayor seem unlikely to cease when he becomes what is rather madly known as a private citizen. After his endeavors to reassure and inform a shocked city in the months after Sept. 11, Giuliani will surely remain a public figure in America’s most public city for the rest of his life.

Even without Sept. 11, many New Yorkers would have been sad to see Giuliani go, because his years as mayor coincided with prosperity and a dramatic decline in crime. According to a study recently released by the Manhattan Institute, a conservative think-tank, the decline in crime had much to with what the police were up to, and in particular a police strategy known as the “broken windows” approach. As the New York Times reports:

In particular, the study found no evidence that the declining use of cocaine, as measured by hospital discharges for cocaine-related episodes, was associated with a drop in crime, or that the escalating use was associated with an increase. More likely … the declines were precipitated by the “broken windows” approach to law enforcement, in which the police made many more misdemeanor arrests for lesser offenses in hopes of creating a sense of social order that deterred crime.

The study also claims that more unemployment doesn’t lead to more crime, a point the authors are keen to stress now that unemployment in New York is on the rise. Others disagree, saying that a decline in the use of crack cocaine was responsible for the fall in crime. So, the arguments about the policing of New York during the Giuliani years seem certain to persist for some considerable time.