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

    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

    Keywords

    • Broken windows
    • Cocaine
    • Firearms
    • Urban
    • Violence

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Pathology and Forensic Medicine
    • Law

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