2Modern-day record keeping of crime statistics began in 1960, and in all the time since,crime in New York City had never fallen as many years in a row as it did starting around1990, according to statistics compiled by the “NYPD,” or New York City PoliceDepartment.
This study describes the city’s record-setting period with NYPD statisticsthrough the year 2002.Journalists, researchers and others have occasionally questioned whether the NYPDstatistics can be trusted. Some have wondered whether a change in NYPD record-keeping or perhaps even outright manipulation of the statistics may have produced themeasured drop in crime, rather than real declines in criminal offending. To addresssuch possibilities, this study compared the NYPD crime statistics to those obtained fromsources independent of the NYPD.
The Remarkable Drop in Crime According to NYPD Statistics
Record-setting drop in homicide rate, 1990-1998
. Up to 1990, the record forconsecutive-year declines in the number and rate of homicide was the 4-year declinefrom 1981 to 1985. Those two records were broken from 1990 to 1998. Over thatperiod, homicides in New York City went from 2,245 (the most ever recorded) to 633(Appendix table 1). The last time the city saw fewer than 633 homicides was 1965! The633 represent the culmination of a record 8 consecutive years of drops in the number ofhomicides. Similarly, over that same period, the homicide rate fell a record 8 years in arow to .086 per 1,000 population (figure 1 and Appendix table 2). The last time the citysaw a rate lower than .086 was 1966!
National crime rates exist before 1960 but are viewed as “neither fully comparable withnor nearly so reliable as later figures” (President’s Crime Commission 1967: 20). Somodern-day record keeping of crime statistics is said to have begun around 1960 in theUnited States.
Homicide: Police-recorded crime rateper 1,000 population in New York City
Note: The longest period of consecutive-year declinesin the NYPD homicide rate was 1990 to 1998.