New York City: Fear City Redux By George J. Marlin When the founder of the modern conservative movement, William F. Buckley Jr., was running for mayor in 1965, he published a position paper describing New York City’s skyrocketing crime, its causes, and its remedies.
The paper's title was "In New York, It Pays," in it Buckley argued: "The first mark of the civilized community is the ability to control its criminal element. By this standard New York City has lapsed into barbarism. . . . The basic cause of increased crime is, of course, the increasing moral and social disorder that mark contemporary society, and is thus less a problem for civil magistrates than for our churchmen and educators. . . . The disparagements of the police have created a crisis in morale and a swaggering disrespect for the policeman as the symbol of the public order. . . . Above all, crime has been encouraged in the city, as elsewhere, by the policies and practices of the courts."
Too many judges appear to have forgotten that the primary purpose of courts of justice is to assert the demands of the public order — by meting out convincing punishment to those who transgress against it. The fact is that crimes in New York City, both juvenile and adult, does pay.
It pays, in large part, because the city’s judicial system has defaulted on its primary duty to protect the public, in favor of an obsessive solicitude for those individuals who are responsible for breaking the peace of the city.
Buckley called it right.
Leftist law enforcement policies that assumed criminals were victims and cops were bad guys, turned New York into the crime capital of the nation.
In 1945, crimes committed in New York totaled 32,845, with 292 of them murders.
By 1975, the year the City went broke, total crimes came in at 581,247 and murders, 1,690.
Reacting to the crime wave in 1975, angry off-duty civil servants handed out at airports and bus terminals a flyer, with an image of a ghoulish skull on the cover, titled "Welcome to Fear City A Survival Guide for Visitors to the City of New York."
The list of recommendations, which were prepared by a group of firefighters and law officers to help people enjoy their visit "in comfort and safety," included: Stay off the streets after 6 P.M.; do not walk; avoid public transportation; remain in Manhattan; protect your property; safeguard your handbag; conceal property in automobiles; do not leave valuables in your hotel room; and be aware of fire hazards.
Lawlessness continued to run unchecked, and by 1992, total crimes exceeded 650,000; murders, 1,995. Frustrated voters turned first to Rudy Giuliani in 1993, and then Michael Bloomberg in 2001, to take back the streets of the City. 3 And thanks to the aggressive enforcement of "broken windows" and "stop and frisk" strategiesimplemented by the NYPD under the leadership of commissioners Bill Bratton and Ray Kelly, crime dropped to lows not seen since the end of World War II.
During Mayor Bloomberg’s last year in office (2013), major offenses reported to the police totaled 111,355; total murders, 335. This downward trend continued during Mayor de Blasio’s early years in office.
But over time, he surrendered to the demands of radicals who subscribe to long-discredited notions that aggressive, pro-active policing is wrong, and that "society" not individuals, bear responsibility for urban ills. De Blasio not only tied the enforcement hands of police, he cut the police budget by $1 billion and disbanded the Department’s Anti-Crime Unit in 2020.
Those decisions, plus the new state law that prevented judges from setting bail for most non-violent felonies and drug charges, sparked an uptick in major crimes for the first time in a quarter of a century. In 2020, homicides were up over 47% versus 2019; shootings up 97%.
It has gotten worse in 2021.
Here’s April 2021 crime figures versus April 2020: Shootings up 166%; Rape +53%; Assaults +39%; Robberies +28%; and Car Thefts +34%. Homicides were up 16% versus April 2020 and up 30% versus 2019.
In a recent interview with the New York Times, Bill Bratton made these comments about the City’s "Defund the Police" strategy: "What do they get? Rising crime, cops leaving in droves, difficulty recruiting."
Mayor de Blasio and his ideological cohorts have learned nothing from the policing policies that failed to provide effective deterrents to crime in the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s.
As a result, in the words of another former commissioner, Michael Murphy, "the police are forced to fight by Marquess of Queensbury Rules, while the criminals are permitted to gouge and bite." Crime in New York City does "pay" and this helps explain why hundreds of thousands of people are fleeing the City for safer havens. The emergence of "crime triumphant" is causing New York to become, once again, "Fear City."
George J. Marlin, a former executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, is the author of "The American Catholic Voter: Two Hundred Years of Political Impact," and "Christian Persecutions in the Middle East: A 21st Century Tragedy." He is chairman of Aid to the Church in Need-USA. Mr. Marlin also writes for TheCatholicThing.org and the Long Island Business News. Read George J. Marlin's Reports — More Here.
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