Crime Didn’t Drop In New York City Because of CompStat

What is the deal with New Yorkers? Here is Chris Smith on CompStat, the computerized crime-tracking system first used in New York:

No New York invention, arguably, has saved more lives in the past 24 years. CompStat has helped drive down the city’s crime rates to historic lows….There is also considerable debate on just how much credit CompStat, and the NYPD in general, deserves for the crime decline. Cities including Houston and Phoenix saw similar declines and attributed them mostly to economic development and community policing. “Two decades of an expanding economy, and mass incarceration, have contributed the most to the crime drop,” says Rick Rosenfeld, a professor of criminology at the University of Missouri, St. Louis. “Smarter policing, informed by digitized crime data, has contributed in a number of places, including New York City. But we don’t know how much.”

Crime began dropping in New York years before CompStat was up and running. Crime dropped in Los Angeles and Toronto and Stockholm at the same time, even though they didn’t have CompStat. And crime dropped everywhere in New York City, regardless of how strongly various areas were targeted by CompStat.

How can we still be arguing about this? I don’t doubt that CompStat is a good management tool, and it might be effective at keeping crime rates low after they’ve already dropped. However, there’s simply no reason to think it had a significant effect on the huge drop in crime in New York City during the 90s and aughts. The evidence just doesn’t fit. Knock it off, folks.