NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


August 15, 2005

At its peak in 1990, 2,245 murders were committed in New York; but for the first time since 1961, the number of homicides in the city may fall below 500, meaning that more New Yorkers may kill themselves than others. Moreover, the number of murders per 100,000 people will be lower than that of the national average, says the New York Times.

So, how low can the murder rate go, asks the Times:

  • Today, the number of random murders is way down; strangers commit just 16 percent of murders and murders committed during robberies and burglaries have declined to 11 percent.
  • According to a survey of the range of murder rates in the nation's 40 biggest cities, the number of murders in New York could range from 2,407 in a very bad year to 385 in a very good year.
  • In fact, it is possible that murders could fall below 385, but with eight million people in a city where 55,000 violent crimes took place last year, at least some are bound to take place.

Even though the specific cause of the decline is unknown, there are a few reasons to explain the drop, says the Times.

  • Armed with a computerized database, the police are learning more about who gets killed and why, and can try to pre-empt murder; for example, they have already learned that if they stop enough people for minor offenses, frisk them and impose mandatory sentences for gun possession, word spreads pretty quickly.
  • By taking complaints of domestic abuse more seriously, fewer spouses and partners are becoming homicide victims.
  • Staking out social clubs on Saturday nights may stop fights from becoming fatal.

Furthermore, the annual number of murders in Manhattan has dipped below 100 for the first time since the 19th century, says the Times.

Source: Sam Roberts, "Where Killers Are Out Of Style," New York Times, August 7, 2005.

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