US Cities Differ on Crime-Control Strategies

In the eyes of many experts, San Diego and Boston have become the new US models of policing and reduced crime rates. Experts say that while New York has stressed tough enforcement, San Diego pioneered community and problem-solving policing and Boston developed an approach combining careful research, participation by local ministers and selective action against the worst criminals.

New York officials claim, however, that their community outreach efforts haven't received sufficient attention.

Figures compiled by Alfred Blumstein, of Carnegie Mellon University, from FBI Uniform Crime Reports, show that all three cities have seem comparable reductions in crime rates:

  • The murder rate in San Diego fell 76.4 percent from 1991 to 1998, the largest drop of any major U.S. city, with New York second at 70.6 percent and Boston third, with a 69.3 percent drop.

  • The total decline in U.S. homicides for the period was 36.1 percent.

  • San Diego again led the nation in decreases in robberies with a decline of 62.6 percent, followed by Los Angeles at 60.9 percent and New York at 60.1 percent.

  • Nationally, the robbery rate dropped 39.4 percent.

    Robberies and homicides have also declined in Los Angeles -- by 59.3 percent. Law enforcement experts are baffled, since the L.A. police department has been plagued by scandals and low morale and has seen a drop in arrests. This suggests that some, if not much, of the nation-wide reduction in crime may stem from factors beyond better policing -- factors such as longer prison sentences, the strong economy and changes in the attitude of young people toward drugs and crime.

    Source: Fox Butterfield, "Cities Reduce Crime and Conflict Without New York-Style Hardball," New York Times, March 4, 2000.

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