Understanding the Crime Decline in New York City

Principal Investigators:

  • Richard Rosenfeld
  • University of Missouri – St. Louis
  • Karen Terry
  • John Jay College of Criminal Justice

Funding Agencies:

Open Society Foundation, Public Welfare Foundation, and Atlantic Philanthropies

New York City has experienced the longest and steepest crime decline of any large city in the United States. This drop has been attributed to an array of factors, including the evolution of drug markets, changing demographics, increased incarceration, and implementation of "get tough" enforcement polices in the early 1990s by the New York Police Department (NYPD). Several questions remain, however, regarding New York City's crime decline. This 15-month project seeks to address these questions in a three-step process.

First, we have assembled a project steering committee consisting of internationally-known criminologists, sociologists, and economists to advise the principal investigators throughout the project period (see below). Second, we have commissioned a series of papers by content experts that identify candidate factors underlying the crime drop, both in the 1990s and post-2000; evaluate essential measurement, statistical, and theoretical issues related to assessing and modeling the crime drop; and investigate the impact on crime and possible collateral consequences associated with specific crime-reduction strategies.

In addition, preliminary empirical research will be conducted by project personnel on the crime-reduction impacts post-2000 of the NYPD's "stop, question, and frisk" enforcement strategy. The research results and summaries of the commissioned papers will be reviewed by the steering committee and presented at a two-day conference at John Jay College on September 22 and 23, 2011. The conference brings together research scholars, practitioners, policy-makers, and other interested parties to discuss the papers and preliminary research and help lay the groundwork for the project's third and final phase: the preparation of one or more major research proposals for an extended investigation of New York's crime drop and its implications for explaining and controlling crime elsewhere.

We anticipate that the proposal(s) will attract strong interest from private and public funding agencies given the importance of the topic and breadth of research and planning activity undertaken during the first two phases.

Steering Committee Members:

  • Richard Rosenfeld, University of Missouri-St. Louis, Principal Investigator
  • Karen Terry, John Jay College of Criminal Justice, Co-Principal Investigator
  • Alfred Blumstein, Carnegie Mellon University
  • Philip Cook, Duke University
  • Jeffrey Fagan, Columbia University
  • Tracey Meares, Yale University
  • Steven Messner, University at Albany, SUNY
  • Anne Piehl, Rutgers University
  • Robert Sampson, Harvard University
  • David Weisburd, George Mason University, Hebrew University

For more information on the project Understanding the Crime Decline in New York City, contact Preeti Chauhan, pchauhan@jjay.cuny.edu, 212.237.8790.