New numbers out of New York City reveal that 2017 has been one of the safest in the city since reliable crime figures first came into existence. Even more importantly for the worlds of criminal defense and law enforcement, though, is the fact that this steep decline happened after the New York Police Department (NYPD) shelved its stop and frisk policy and drastically reduced its use of deadly force.
The lesson should be used against “tough on crime” politicians and proponents for decades into the future: A shining example of how their heavy-handed response to crime is terrible for society.
New York's Crime Rate Falls, Again
According to a report by The New York Times, the total number of crimes in each of the major felony categories – murder and manslaughter, rape, assault, robbery, burglary, grand larceny, and car thefts – fell in 2017 to a new record low. As of December 24, they came to a total of 94,806 in the city, a 7% decrease from the previous record low of 101,716, set last year.
While the last week of 2017 might reduce this difference, there is little chance that 2017 will not be the safest since reliable statistics began being kept in the 1950s. It will also make it 27 years in a row that crime levels have fallen in the City.
Over the course of those 27 years, homicides in New York City have fallen nearly 90%, from 2,245 in 1990 to 286 so far in 2017.
Less Stop and Frisk and Use of Deadly Force
2017's steep decline happened in spite of less of the traditional policing methods that New York has been known for: Stop and frisk, and the use of deadly force.
Stop and frisk used to be one of the NYPD's favorite police tactics. However, statistics revealed that they used it almost exclusively on minorities, leading a court to declare it unconstitutional. When Bill de Blasio became mayor in 2013, though, he made the NYPD change tactics and the number of stop and frisks conducted in the Big Apple crashed.
In addition to reining in the rampant use of stop and frisk, the NYPD also shifted their focus to improving their relationship with the community, rather than brandishing weapons whenever possible. As a result, officers in the NYPD only intentionally fired their service guns 23 times in 2017, down from 37 the year before.
Maine Criminal Defense Attorney William T. Bly
People who think that the only appropriate response to crime is to lock everyone up and throw away the key should have these new statistics from New York City thrown in their face every time they push their agenda. These figures show that a more holistic approach to policing is far from the guaranteed anarchy that “tough on crime” advocates constantly trumpet.