New York City is, by most measures, safer than ever before and has gotten safer under Mayor de Blasio, despite the city’s reducing the number of stops and arrests recorded by the NYPD. Yet some citizens retain the perception—fed by certain media outlets and political players—that the city is “sliding back to the bad old days.” In the second part of City Limits’ partnership with Mike Lepetit’s journalism class at the Riverdale Kingsbridge Academy High School in the West Bronx, students penned op-eds on whether New York is safer or less safe than it used to be. Here, with minimal filtering by the grown-ups, is what they think:
As young man in New York I believe that it is important for the relationship between the police and the public to be strong for a safer New York. There have been polls ran where New Yorkers and police officers were asked if New York has become a safer place and it seems to be they feel New York is becoming unsafe.
The Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association discovered that 87 percent of officers believe That New York City is “less safe” since de Blasio took over in 2014 and that 96 percent think that the department’s relationship with the people of New York has also worsened. With that being said some officers feel less satisfied with their jobs. Officers felt that their job has become more difficult than ever, the dangers are greater, and morale is extremely low
In a separate poll, while 55 percent of the public said they thought that New York was less safe under the current mayor, while only 28 percent thought it was safer now, Fifty-eight percent said that New York was safer under Mayors Giuliani and Bloomberg, while 24 percent said it was less safe. So it is safe to say that a big reason of New Yorkers feeling unsafe has to do with the new mayor. People feel that the decline started when de Blasio became mayor because polls show people felt safer with the past mayors.
Monica Klein, a spokeswoman for de Blasio, called the survey’s results “highly suspect.” Monica said, “We are experiencing historic lows in criminal activity,” she said. “Murders and shootings are at their lowest in modern history. NYPD is the most effective police force in the country thanks to our officers’ dedication and commitment to their job.”
Historical perspective needed
Despite what some people have been saying lately, New York city feels and is safer than it’s ever been before.
New York City has been known for its notorious crime in the past. However, that is no longer the case. In the past 20 or so years, New York has done a great job at cleaning up its act and has even become one of the safest cities in the country. Crime in New York is decreasing and there are statistics to back it up. A study conducted by the Brennan Center for Justice analyzed crime in the country’s 30 largest cities and actually showed that New York had the lowest incidence of crime among those 30, making it the safest large city in the country. In 1990 there was an astonishing total of 2262 total homicides in New York, in 2015, just 25 years later, there were only 352 homicides, a record low. Homicide is not the only crime that has drastically decreased. Rape is down by 55 percent in the last 20 years as is robbery which has decreased by an insane 83 percent in the last 25 years. In the last 25 years, all crime in New York city has decreased by a total of 80 percent.
While the statistics show us that New York actually is the safest it has ever been one can see why people may feel that it is not as safe as before. For starters we live in a world dominated by the news and media and events/crimes are much better documented today than 25 years ago. If a crime happens, especially a violent one, you are going to hear about it a lot more due to a constant stream of news, often which is sensationalized. However, just because you hear about something more does not mean it is actually happening more and that is the exact case with New York.
As a native New Yorker myself I can speak from personal experience when I say that New York City definitely is and feels safer than ever before. I’m not saying it did not feel safe five years ago; it just now feels even safer now. I often go to the city with my friends or by myself and commute there by taking the subway which in the past has had a reputation for being a shady crime hotspot. Personally I have never once felt unsafe or really threatened by anyone on the subway.
While there may be some odd people you encounter I have never once feared for my safety. The city is clean, very well lit at night and just overall I feel safer than ever before. My mother who has also lived in New York city her whole often tells me of how 20 years ago you couldn’t take the subway alone or how certain parts of the city like Chelsea and SoHo are much better and generally safer and nicer areas than before. The truth of the matter is that New York is simply the safest it has been in a long time and it continues to get safer everyday.
Statistics don’t lie
The city of New York is something we all consider “ours.” We identify with the tall buildings, the sports teams, our fellow citizens, and the safety to explore in a vast urban jungle. This perceived safety however is something some city-dwellers and tourists may think is being lost. Fortunately, media sensationalism and better awareness are what’s really on the rise in New York and all over the country. Recent evidence would also suggest that crime is at an all-time low. The city we call home has never been safer for tourists and residents of all demographics.
My first experiences with the city were quite risk-free. My friends and I would hop on the bright, clean, expensive, fast cars of Metro-North from our half-suburban neighborhood of Spuyten-Duyvil and crack jokes on the 25 minute ride to Grand Central. We would get off and explore the expansive 5th ave all the way from 42nd down to Union Square. The 28-block journey meant a lot to us. We got a real sense of freedom and what it felt like to be an adult. It took a lot of courage for us to go beyond that but we did because of the confidence we built on those 28-block walks. And we have the safety of the city provided by law enforcement and the people of this town.
This feeling of safety is not just a belief I have. Parvais Shallwani and Mark Morales of The Wall street Journal wrote “major crime in 2015 was at the lowest point since statistics have been kept. Overall, reports of such crimes fell 1.7 percent in 2015 from a year earlier, bringing the two-year drop to 5.8 percent since Mayor Bill de Blasio and Police Commissioner William Bratton took office.” It makes it much easier to step outside and explore when you hear facts like these: “major crime in 2015 was at the lowest point since statistics have been kept.”
Some will argue that New York is more dangerous than ever. I have heard from many female friends that cat-calling and sexual assault have become a major issues. While I am inclined to agree and the statistics do too (rape rose 6.3 percent in 2015), I do believe that better awareness of what sexual assault is and more encouragement to report the serious crime could be factors in this number rising. Even the crime statistics that have gone up may show a positive. There might be better systems in place to report crimes and get justice to continually make our city safer.
News coverage is the culprit
Forty six percent of New Yorkers think that crime is a serious issue according to a Quinnipiac University survey. So, with that statistic in mind, many people feel justified in saying New York is less safe based on what they see on the news. However, based on research I’ve done, I can confidently say that New York does not feel any less safe than before.
There is one big reason why people feel New York is less safe than before, and that’s primarily from what they see on news outlets. Compared to outlets from the 1990s and 1980s, we didn’t have the “hot off the grill” news that we have today. People worked, then watched the news before or during dinner that night. There was no Twitter or Facebook or Instagram to inform us of a tragedy. The news outlets that report on, for example, mass shootings, in today’s society are so instantaneous and repetitive on different media outlets, that it’s difficult not to think that the tragedies happening across the country aren’t in our neighborhood and more frequent. But a person is more likely to die from a car crash than a mass shooting, even though the latter is what’s all over the news. According to NPR and the National Safety Council, there were 38,300 automobile fatalities in the year 2015 alone, a fourteen percent increase. The amount of people dying in a mass shooting in 2015? 475, according to BBC.
Another example of this is with the recent attacks on female joggers. Attacks on joggers is not something new, it’s been happening for years. It’s so easy for things like these to go viral now, that it quickly instills fear in all of us because we get the feeling as though it happened in our neighborhood. According to the website Journalism.org, six in ten Americans get their news from social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Reddit. And thus, the perception of New York being less safe is an understandable belief.
If we as New Yorkers can understand that this idea of our home being less safe than before is just a perception, we might be able to overcome the fear that our neighborhood is less safe than it was.
A stigma remains
Primarily, The preconception that New York is a dangerous area that may result from the reputation the New York City Traveler indicates wherein this city “ … has for a long time been considered particularly crime-ridden and dangerous, recent statistics in fact point to the contrary.” to provide the idea that New York is the epitome for lacking security. There was no hope that could potentially alter the perspective of the people since some residents expressed other issues for the past because there were relatives of the individual that grew up in New York City in the 1980s and they had to experience the dangers of exponential use of drugs compared to the present. NYC Traveler indicates the idea that, “At least 19 of the slayings this year were the result of robberies, burglaries, gang warfare or drug dealing.” because it reveals the intensity of the old lifestyle and describe the mild versions of the issues, despite the difficulties.
Additionally, New York is diverse in which Manhattan, Riverdale, and parts of Brooklyn are considered the safer regions, which allows the opportunity to balance the regulations. There are those who claimed that the media portrays each situation as worsening when realistically, New York is in minimal danger. The New York City Traveler also suggests that even if there are criminal transactions those can be easily avoided. Furthermore, according to the New York Daily News, the crime rate has significant dropped compared to 2015 in which the first two months increase the ratio by 20 percent and even then, there was still a decrease as a greater effect.
Safety was the priority for New York and without the influence of the media, people will be allowed to create their judgement accurately and avoid any further complications with the issue Individuals are manipulated by the media as well as being open minded because the crimes that do transpire, gradually become justified. Overall, the society produced by New York, will continue to gravitate towards a positive outlook, and yet it looks as if there were still potential in this state for safety.
Safer than most, even with terrorism a threat
Despite being recognized for many reasons, New York City is incorrectly known as a dangerous city. Due to improvements within the NYPD, New York feels safer now than ever before. Although crime rates have gotten lower over the past 40 years, in the past year, crime rates have risen again.
Even though New York City is actually very safe, the thought that it is dangerous comes from crime statistics throughout the city’s history. During the early 20th century, crime rates and homicide rates were extremely high because of the amount of poverty in NYC. Poverty and a weak police force led to increased crime in many neighborhoods.
Today, NYC is much different. In a list of the number of homicides per year, New York City came in 54th place out of 72 American cities, according to author Ben Wellington). According to GoNYC, violent crimes in NYC have dropped by over 50 percent in the last decade. Besides New York City, America’s national crime rate is roughly half of what it was during its peak in 1991, says New York magazine.
A large part in making NYC safer has to do with the NYPD. Better training and technology has allowed the NYPD to do their job better than ever before. Cameras at every street corner and body cameras have allowed the NYPD to watch crimes or altercations with suspects. Better training has allowed for only 2 percent of arrests in 2014 to require the use of force, compared to more than 8 percent in 1990 (NYPD Crime Data Warehouse).
Over the past few years, the New York Police Department has revised several department rules. In early 2015, the NYPD released new guidelines for stop-and-frisks. Since 2011 stop-and-frisk encounters have dropped by 93 percent. These guidelines were released because most stop-and-frisks were done to black men between the ages of 18 and 25. To deter discrimination, officers must have a justification for the stop-and-frisk.
While this guideline has been great in decreasing the number of stop-and-frisks, some people believe this is why crime rates have slightly risen over the past two years. According to the New York Times from August 11th, 2015 to August 31, 2016, there has been a 9 percent increase in murder rates. Also, in the past couple of months subway slashings have occurred more than it usually does.
Besides violent crimes, the NYPD spends a lot of time working against terrorism in New York City. Since 9/11 there have been over 20 known terrorist plots against New York City. With innovative technology, the NYPD is able to stop these plots before anything can occur. Most recently, Ahmad Khan Rahami, 28, was arrested for his connection with the Chelsea bombing. 31 people were injured at 8:30pm on September 18th when Rahami set off a bomb in a dumpster. Rahami was also connected to the bombing in New Jersey from earlier in the day.
Although NYC does not have the best history of homicide and crimes rates, New York is a lot safer than before. Besides being safer than before, compared to other cities in the United States crime rates are lower in NYC. Although New York City is the most densely populated city in the United States, it is definitely not the most dangerous. Terrorists can attack and people steal and kill everywhere in the world. Since these types of threats can happen anywhere in the world, this does not make New York City any more dangerous than any other city.
Not like the movies
Many envision New York City as an urban cesspool, plagued with crime and dangerous people. While movies like “Taxi Driver” and “The Warriors” were shockingly realistic in their time, it’s impractical to say that these movies still accurately portray modern day New York City. Despite recent studies proving the dramatic decrease in the number of violent crimes committed, the reputation that New York City still holds has yet to go away. To some, a casual stroll in lower Manhattan isn’t as innocent as it once was.
Despite having a population of more than 8 million people, violent crimes in New York City have dropped by over 50 percent in the last decade, and murder rates in 2009 were the lowest since 1963. In 2014 it was recorded that the amount of murders committed was 85 percent less than the amount recorded in 1990. New York City has also consistently remained in the top 10 safest largest cities in the United States.
Others, however, don’t quite believe in these recent studies and have chosen to side with those in favor of more involvement towards public safety. In a recent article written by the New York Post, it includes a recent survey done by the city’s police union. The polling of about 6,000 NYPD officers revealed that roughly 87 percent of them said New York City has become less safe since the new administration took over in the beginning of 2014. This new administration includes Mayor de Blasio and Police Commissioner Bill Bratton, who do not understand where this uncertainty comes from. The fear of terrorism also threatens many New York City residents on a daily basis, and the recent bombings in Chelsea, New York, only heighten that fear.
While the NYPD has no easy job, it’s a far easier one that what times were like during the late 1970s through 1990s. This was a time of maximum crime, where violent acts and murder were committed daily, making the city a dark place to be in. But times have changed and the amount of crimes committed on a daily basis has drastically lowered compared to what is during the late ‘80s. Although the threat of terrorism has been a part of the media for the past couple of years, the NYPD has committed extensive time and effort into quelling these fears. They’ve created an incredibly sophisticated counterterrorism program that is responsible for curbing the amount of attempted attacks. In 2010, an attempted car bombing in Times Square was identified and secured in a matter of minutes by vigilant citizens and the counterterrorism program. It truly is safe to say that New York City has vastly improved its police force and has greatly decreased the amount of crime committed.
While some still believe in the reputation that New York City still has, modern day New York City is far safer than what times were like in previous years. It would be careless and impractical to believe that nothing has changed since this time, but unfortunately there are still people who don’t understand this. New York City has been my home since I was born, so maybe I don’t see the slight similarities between now and then. But we’re on a steady streak of being the safest city in the United States, and I can’t help but feel hopeful for us to reach that point and to come full circle.
Better relations with the police are essential
Lately there has been a lot of tension between citizens in New York and the police. This is due to the police brutality that has been happening all around the country. Although not all cops are the same, most of them do not want to kill innocent people, some are racists who use their authority in a negative way.
Many people especially young black men do not feel protected or safe around the police. One of my classmates said “I’m a young black guy and I’m never looking for any trouble, but as soon as I see any police officers near me I start to freak out and I get very anxious even though, I know I have done nothing wrong.”
People must come together and help make New York feel safe again. Many citizens live and work here, they should not be worried about getting slashed on a train, a young girl should not worry about being taken while walking home, and we shouldn’t be afraid of cops.
These things need to change, and fast.