Summer 2014 Violence in NYC


This is my first post, so I’d like to acknowledge it so. And as with many things, my first is something that is close and dear to my heart.

Perhaps it is because of my poor memory, but I find it disturbing to see so many articles in such a short time frame about the number of violent crimes committed over a few days reported in NYC. Just in the last week, news vendors have had two articles (or lists) about numerous violent crimes throughout the city. One article notes that the NYPD is already prepared for the increase in violent crimes as the temperature rises, stating that this was an annual event.

These are the facts:

On May 27th, NBC reported that “3 stabbed, 8 shot in violent night.”

On June 1st, NYT reported that “At least 13 are wounded by gunfire across New York City.”

These are other people’s opinions:

Obviously, this doesn’t even qualify as a statistical sample of crimes in NYC. However, this will bring up the conversation of stop-and-frisk, and if the policy was a determining factor in reducing violent crimes.(1)

In February 2014, Mike Weisser of Huffington Post noted that “it was clear that violent crime is decreasing, but less clear why.” The timeframe in question is from 1993-2012. He notes that Bloomberg in particular touts his reliance on the stop-and-frisk policy and computerization of patrols and surveillance (Compstat), but discounts these tools because the majority of the crime rate drop occurred prior to 2002 (Bloomberg’s first term start). He ends his article by stating “Violent crime is a multi-faceted behavioral phenomenon whose causes lie very deep within the social fabric of the community, and I’m not sure we really understand enough about high-crime communities to know why it occurs.”

In May 2014, Newsday reported that “Another study… by Richard Rosenfeld of the University of Missouri-St. Louis looking at census tracts suggested that stop and frisks had a modest effect on robberies, assaults and possibly homicides, with robberies dropping 20 percent.” However, they tempered the statistics with NYPD stressing that “‘blips’ in crime will occur, and [Police Commissioner William Bratton] noted how serious crimes have continued to fall, with the city remaining on track for another possible record low in homicides.” The article ends with a retired NYPD detective believing “the rise in shootings stems from the street criminals awareness that police have pulled back on stop and frisk.”

These are my opinions:

There are many articles and some books written about stop-and-frisk, and I chose just two examples that, I think, does a good job representing some of the main points. However, the question is, how does this relate to this last particular, violent week? I’m trying to figure out if, in an alternate universe, stop-and-frisk was still employed, would it have had any effect on this week? I believe the answer is yes.

Without the stop-and-frisk policy, people can carry weapons with a reasonable expectation that they will not be searched. This means that more people will carry these, and having weapons will create that much more opportunity for them to be used. Weisser pointed out that crime fell prior to 2002, but Bratton (yes, the current commissioner) began implementing the broken windows theory(2), which meant a more aggressive stop-and-frisk policy as well as the first implementation of Compstat. If timing is the only reason that Weisser does not give these policies full credit, then this is a very shaky argument. And I understand that this is not necessarily the best argument, but it was the most straightforward reason why stop-and-frisk may not have worked.

Ultimately, there needs to be new policy set in place that has, at the very least, even the controversy of its effectiveness like stop-and-frisk. NYPD is now conducting an experiment in the Bronx, 47th district, for police to visit families on a regular basis. The goal is to have better relationships with the regular citizens, and the hope is that they can act as early warning detectors.(3) If it goes well, officers could be placed in specific areas after there is an event that could lead to, say, retaliation (it’s called Operation Impact, NYPD approval pending). While not as proactive as policies before, the idea is that defusing situations may be as effective.

I think this is the natural evolution of police policy. It will take time because it takes time to change people’s attitudes and prejudices. But, if the program were allowed to continue uninterrupted for 5-10 years, regular citizens may feel comfortable speaking with officers about potential future crimes. At the very least, a more humane policy has been put in place, and you can’t blame for the top brass for trying.

But in the short run, I’m still disturbed by the seemingly domino effect of violence in NYC. There doesn’t seem to be a quick fix, and the city will pay the price. For now, I’ll spend less time outside when it’s dark.


(1) Let me say this first. Stop-and-frisk is a policy that cannot be implemented at this time. I’m trying to determine if it had a direct influence on the drop in crime rates, and what alternatives could be utilized. I’m aware of the implications it has on citizens’ rights, but I’m not trying to steer the following observations to that debate.

(2) Wikipedia notes: “The broken windows theory was first introduced by social scientists James Q. Wilson and George L. Kelling, in an article titled “Broken Windows” which appeared in the March 1982 edition of The Atlantic Monthly. The title comes from the following example:

Consider a building with a few broken windows. If the windows are not repaired, the tendency is for vandals to break a few more windows. Eventually, they may even break into the building, and if it’s unoccupied, perhaps become squatters or light fires inside.”

(3) Not snitches though. But early warning informers. But not snitches. Yeah, never mind, that won’t stick no matter how often you say that phrase.



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