NYC Incarceration, Crime Both Down; Can Mayor Rightfully Claim Credit?


New York City reports 32 percent decrease in both the felony crime rate and the number of people behind bars since Mayor Michael Bloomberg took office, says the Wall Street Journal. The city says its incarceration rate is 27 percent lower than the rest of the nation. “Policing strategies that reduce crime have the added benefit of dramatically reducing incarceration in New York City,” said Bloomberg advisor John Feinblatt. “This was not foreordained. Instead it is the result of stopping crimes before they happen, and keeping those who would have been convicted of those crimes out of jails, productively engaged in their communities.”

Criminal justice experts said that while New York’s consistent policing and commitment to jail alternatives were a factor in the low incarceration rate, the real reasons behind the decline in felony crimes are a mystery. Crime rates are decreasing nationally and even internationally, despite wide variation in policing techniques. “Crime is coming down all over the country, and every mayor and police chief points to things they're doing in their city. But if it's a nationwide phenomenon, it's something bigger than what just New York City is doing,” said Jeffrey Butts of John Jay College of Criminal Justice. Says Frank Zimring of the University of California at Berkeley, who wrote a book on New York City’s crime decline: “What happens when you have encouraging crime news, is that the mayor turns to the police chief and says 'Hey, what did we do last year, it worked!' “

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