Policing, drugs, and the homicide decline in New York City in the 1990s

Steven F. Messner, Sandro Galea, Kenneth J. Tardiff, Melissa Tracy, Angela Bucciarelli, Tinka Markham Piper, Victoria Frye, David Vlahov

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

66 Scopus citations

Abstract

This research reassesses the role of policing and drugs in the sharp homicide decline in New York City in the 1990s. Drawing on theoretical arguments about "broken windows" policing and lethal violence associated with the diffusion of crack cocaine, we estimate the effects of measures of misdemeanor arrests and cocaine prevalence on homicide rates with pooled, cross-sectional time-series data for 74 New York City precincts over the 1990-1999 period. The results of mixed regression models reveal a significant negative effect of changes in misdemeanor arrests and a significant positive effect of changes in cocaine prevalence on changes in total homicide rates. Additional analyses of homicide disaggregated by weapon indicate that the effects of misdemeanor arrests and cocaine prevalence emerge for gun-related but not for non-gun-related homicides. Overall, the research generally supports influential interpretations of the homicide decline in New York City but also raises questions about underlying mechanisms that warrant more inquiry in future research.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)385-414
Number of pages30
JournalCriminology
Volume45
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - May 2007
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Broken windows
  • Cocaine
  • Firearms
  • Urban
  • Violence

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine
  • Law

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