When I moved to New York in the 1980s, it was grim, grungy, crime-ridden place. The subways were a vision from Dante’s Inferno. I would never have thought that New York could bounce back and become semi-civilized. (I’m sorry, I’m from the West Coast and that is where my heart still is.)
But it happened. The subways work, Times Square is clean, and the crime rate is way down. Much of the credit has to go to the police commissioners appointed by Mayors Rudy Giuliani and Michael Bloomberg. As Heather Mac Donald put it in the Manhattan Institute’s City Journal: “Compstat—the weekly crime-analysis meetings introduced in 1994 by New York police commissioner William Bratton, then in his first tour of duty in that job. Compstat revolutionized policing by holding precinct commanders ruthlessly accountable for crime patterns on their watch; it led to the longest and steepest crime drop on record.”
Indeed, New York hit a high of 2,245 homicides in 1990, or six murders a day. Today, the city has grown by over a million people but the murder count in 2014 was 328, an historic low. Other crime stats are down, though there is concern about backsliding given new Mayor Bill de Blasio’s penchant for political correctness.
But the situation remains stable for now. Economist magazine’s Intelligence Unit has compiled a new Safe Cities Index that tracks the relative safety of 50 representative world cities. It explains that “safety is is measured across four categories: digital security, health security, infrastructure safety and personal safety.”
And there is New York City in the top ten just behind Melbourne and Toronto. Good company. (The safest city, no surprise, is Tokyo).
Government success stories are rare, and certainly the private sector played a big role in hiring security guards, beefing up cyber security, and providing health-care innovations. But for now let’s celebrate New York’s comeback — and vow to keep it in the top ten.