Friday, January 04, 2008

Uh . . . and Prisons?

A five-year-old program that sends rookie police officers to crime hot spots in New York City has helped the city achieve the lowest homicide rate in 45 years and will be doubled in size in 2008, police officials say.

New York police said there were 494 homicides last year, down from 596 in 2006 and the lowest since 548 in 1963 when the city began keeping records of the total number of murders.

When asked last week if there was a single reason for the decline in crime, Police Commissioner Ray Kelly cited Operation Impact, which sends rookie police officers to narrowly defined areas that have suffered from high crime, some no larger than a housing project or a shopping corridor.

Yeah, but rookies? Aren’t they just going to mess things up?

But Browne said using rookies has been key to the success of the program, which was launched in 2003.

"They're the most recently well-trained officers we have. These people are getting the best instruction in the country and when they get out, they know their stuff," Browne said.

But is it the increased number of cops? What about prison?

But critics say there is no evidence Operation Impact deserves the credit for the city's drop in crime.

"Every year that crime drops, the police take credit for the drop," said Andrew Karmen, a sociology professor at New York's John Jay College of Criminal Justice and author of a book on the city's declining homicide rate. "Nobody knows for sure why crime has come down."

Karmen points to the end of the crack cocaine epidemic in the early 1990s, increased enrollment in city colleges, and a stronger economy as plausible explanations beyond police innovations.

No, no, I said “what about prison?” Wait. NY’s closing prisons. Something really strange is going on here. This Christian Science Monitor article says the difference may simply be which cities have the resources to put cops on the streets in the right places and which ones don’t in order to stop the increase in gang activity that a whole bunch of prisons don’t seem to be deterring. Maybe the cities with the homicide increases could have more resources if they weren’t being funneled to areas that aren’t deterring. This article points directly at the lack of police as a major contributor in Detroit, and Bill Bratton is warning of the same in LA (h/t Crime and Justice News). But, but that would contradict the last three decades of corrections sentencing. So it must be fantasy. I need to lie down.

No comments: