Has Low Crime Lulled NYC Into Carelessness?


Does the drop in New York City street crime mean that some residents are losing their precautionary edge? So speculates the New York Times. Said Peter Shankman, a 32-year-old Manhattanite who wears his 1988 mugging outside a high school like a badge of honor: “They’re letting their guard down. Talking to people on the street without thinking about it. Taking the subway home late at night alone. No matter how good the city is, you can never forget that it’s New York.” Eli B. Silverman, professor of police studies at John Jay College of Criminal Justice and author of “N.Y.P.D. Battles Crime: Innovative Strategies in Policing” detects a reversal of social perspective since the mugging era. “In the old days, you assumed things were going to go wrong,” he said, but today “there’s this blithe assumption that things are going to go right.” The upside, he said, is the more that people are visible “the less likely it is the bad guys are going to take over the streets.” The downside, he added, is that people “may put themselves at risk.”

The fear of another terrorist attack may be what has eclipsed many New Yorkers’ fear of an everyday mugging. “People have shifted their attention away from street crime to terrorism and more serious crime,” said Christopher Falkenberg, a former Secret Service agent who runs Insite Security, a consulting firm that caters to corporations and affluent families. “They’re less worried about open backpacks and pickpockets than they are about bombings.”

Link: http://www.nytimes.com/2004/10/24/nyregion/24smar.html

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