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The New York Times.

It's The Cops, Stupid
December 19, 2001

This just in: Police matter when it comes to cutting crime.

For most people, that's just plain common sense.

However, as Prof. George Kelling notes on the previous page, years after the successes of the NYPD's "broken windows" approach, there were still those who wanted to attribute the bulk of crime reduction in New York to just about everything but good police work.

"Demographics," they said. (Meaning that there are now fewer young males--the group most likely to commit crimes--in the overall population.)

"The economic boom," they said.

"The end of crack," they said.

Kelling and his colleague William Sousa demonstrate in a new Manhattan Institute study that--controlling for all those factors--it was actually the vision, management and plain old hard work of the police that produced the city's historic crime drop.

Or, as James Carville might have put it: It's the cops, stupid!

Upon release of the study yesterday, Kelling proclaimed himself "optimistic" about the city's future because the changes of the last eight years have percolated down to the precinct level.

More and more commanders and middle-management cops buy into the "broken windows" theory--i.e., the idea that zero tolerance for minor offenses breeds respect for the law generally.

And they accept individual accountability, right down to the cop on the beat.

As Kelling puts it, the NYPD culture has changed.

If true, this ultimately bodes well for the city's future, even in uncertain economic times.

As the old proverb goes, "Where there is no vision, the people perish." Kelling's report updates that: In a city where there is no vision and no commitment, disorder will run rampant.

New York learned that lesson--painfully--in the early '90s.

Kelling underscores the fact that the change began with men of vision and commitment: Rudy Giuliani and his first commissioner, Bill Bratton, followed by Howard Safir and Bernie Kerik.

If those qualities are lacking in the next mayor and commissioner, the city will eventually be overrun once again.

We hope incoming Mayor Mike Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Ray Kelly read this study closely.

©2001 New York Post



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