Crime Just Keeps on Dropping In New York City

New York City is on its way to crime rates lower than anyone could have imagined a couple of decades ago:

It would have seemed unbelievable in 1990, when there were 2,245 killings in New York City, but as of Wednesday there have been just 286 in the city this year — the lowest since reliable records have been kept. In fact, crime has fallen in New York City in each of the major felony categories — murder and manslaughter, rape, assault, robbery, burglary, grand larceny, and car thefts.

….The numbers, when taken together, portray a city of 8.5 million people growing safer even as the police, under Mayor Bill de Blasio, use less deadly force, make fewer arrests and scale back controversial practices like stopping and frisking thousands of people on the streets. “There is no denying that the arc is truly exceptional in the unbroken streak of declining crime,” said William J. Bratton, who retired from his second stint as police commissioner last year.

I should note that the lead-crime hypothesis predicted this. In fact, I did predict this four years ago. As long as lead poisoning rates stay low, there’s simply no reason to think that crime rates will change dramatically because of stop-and-frisk or anything else.

Lead is no longer significantly responsible for changes in crime rates. That happened between 1990-2010 as the number of lead-poisoned children plummeted. But everyone under 30 today was born in a low-lead environment, and there’s not much lower for things to go. So when you see crime spikes either upward (Chicago) or downward (New York) it has nothing to do with lead exposure. Other factors are now far more at play.

However, what you can say is that, generally, low crime rates are here to stay. Better or worse policing can change things at the margin, but we’re just not ever going back to the 70s and 80s. Thanks, EPA!