Zimring, Franklin E. The City that Became Safe: New York's Lessons for Urban Crime and Its Control (Studies in Crime and Public Policy). New York: Oxford University Press, 2011. xiv + 257 pages. Cloth, $29.95.
Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, New York City was a dangerous place. Many residents feared riding the subways, hookers and drug dealers dominated Times Square, and city parks became homes to muggers. Crime was rampant, and the police seemed powerless to stop it. In the early 1990s, however, the crime rate in New York City began to drop. Over the next two decades, New York City experienced one of the most dramatic drops in crime in modern history. And while the entire United States witnessed a forty percent drop in crime between 1991 and 2000, New York City was unique in that its' drop in crime was twice as large and lasted twice as long. From 1991 to 2009, New York City's crime rate plummeted by more than eighty percent and was on average thirty percent lower than each of the following cities: Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, and Philadelphia. Franklin E. Zimring's book, The City that Became Safe: New York's Lessons for Urban Crime and Its Control, attempts to discern the many possible causes behind this dramatic decline in crime, including gentrification, demographic changes, drug use, economic changes, and incarceration rates. Through a thorough statistical analysis, Zimring, the William C. Simon Professor of Law and Distinguished Scholar at the University of California-Berkeley, shows the reader how these "usual suspects" simply cannot account for New York City's drop in crime during the 1990s and early 2000s.
Gentrification, for example, may account for some changes in crime in parts of New York City, but cannot explain the drop throughout the entire city. While gentrification occurred in parts of Manhattan, most neighborhoods in the Bronx, Brooklyn, and Queens were not transformed in a similar fashion, yet crime declined in all three of these boroughs. Similarly, demographic changes cannot fully explain New York City's drop in crime. Zimring's analysis shows that crime rates declined in areas of NewYork City where high-risk minority populations remained stable and where single-parent households exceeded the national average by a wide margin.
Nor do economic factors offer a sole explanation for New York City's drop in crime. There was an economic boom in the late 1990s, but one also occurred in the 1980s, when crime increased. In...