New Yorkers can enjoy good — make that astonishing — news as they wrap up 2017: Crime in the city has fallen to levels not seen since the 1950s. And with it, the jail population has also hit a 35-year low.
There’s no bad news in any of this: Murders for 2017 are set to end up at fewer than 290, down from a peak of 2,245 in 1990. Shootings and other crimes have also fallen to levels seen back when Dwight Eisenhower was president and Elvis ruled the record charts.
NYC sees 'unbelievable' drop in crime
The number of murders in New York City this year…
The decline has taken place every year for 27 years straight. So while the steepest drops came during Rudy Giuliani’s tenure, every mayor for those years, including David Dinkins, can claim some credit.
But New Yorkers owe the most thanks to the NYPD itself — its brass and the cops on the street. Despite all the verbal attacks targeting them, all the handcuffs placed on them by politicians and all the extra efforts required to prevent terrorism, they’ve delivered ever-lower crime rates.
Now Mayor Bill de Blasio is also crowing about the city’s low jail population — below 9,000 for the first time since 1982. Naturally, that follows the drop in crime.
But it’s also worth noting that Hizzoner, the City Council, the DAs and the NYPD have adopted policies to send fewer people to jail: They’ve decriminalized low-level offenses like peeing and drinking in public. They’re prosecuting fewer turnstile-jumpers.
De Blasio criminal justice director Elizabeth Glazer credits specific efforts to trim “the number of low-risk people who enter our jails” and shorten their stays.
But all this has had negative consequences, too: more quality-of-life crimes and anti-social behavior on the streets.
Meanwhile, there’s no end in sight to efforts to tie cops’ hands and undermine their work. The council just passed the Right to Know Act, requiring cops to get documented consent before a search and to hand out cards ID’ing them and telling folks that they can call 311 to complain.
Warning: It would be a big mistake to use the low crime figures as an excuse to further de-police the streets.
The big worry for New Yorkers is that de Blasio is now a lame-duck Democrat thinking about his future. And the race to the left among Dems is in full swing. (De Blasio will have Bernie Sanders swear him in for his second term on New Year’s Day.)
The mayor may feel a need to prove his progressive bona fides by further restraining cops — and freeing criminals. And he may use the low crime figures to justify it.
Again: That may come with a cost. The fact is, no one knows how long crime rates will stay low if the city eases off enforcement. Better not to find out.