New York, like virtually all other states, experienced a sharp increase in crime and the prison population from the 1970’s to the late 1990’s, but since that time New York is unique among the large states to have experienced both a substantial drop in its prison population and crime rate. Much of this has been attributed to the innovations in policing in New York City under then Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, including COMPStat, a method of data-driven policing that facilitates quick responses to hot spots and holding commanders accountable for results in their region. In fact, from 2000 to 2007, New York City’s reduced its violent crime rate by 64 percent and incarcerated 42 percent fewer offenders.i
In 1977, New York prisons housed 20,000 offenders; by 1999, there were 73,000.ii After 2000, however, New York began a year-by-year drop in its prisoner population, bucking the national trend of continued (though moderate) growth. By 2008, New York prisons held 60,000 inmates—a 16 percent fall from a decade earlier.iii
From 1965 through 1991, property crime in the United States and New York tracked closely together, each about doubling.iv After 1991, the property-crime rate fell both statewide and nationally, but more rapidly in New York. In 2008, the property-crime rate in New York (2,000 crimes per 100,000 residents) was 1.6 times lower than in America as a whole (3,200 per 100,000 residents).v The same pattern holds for violent crime. By 2008, the violent-crime rate was considerably lower in New York State (400 per 100,000) than in the United States (450 per 100,000).vi
In their budget recommendations to state lawmakers , The Empire Center for New York State Policy called for consolidating partly empty prisons, rather than keeping unneeded prisons open to avoid cutting government jobs, and expanding the use of alternatives to incarceration that cost-effectively reduce recidivism among nonviolent offenders.vii
i Marc A. Levin, “Thinking Outside the Cell: Ten Truths About Texas Criminal Justice,” Texas Public Policy Foundation, Sept. 2010, http://www.texaspolicy.com/pdf/2010-09-CEJ-PowerPoint-ml.pdf.
ii Bert Useem, “New York’s Prison Turnaround,” City Journal, Summer 2010, http://www.city-journal.org/2010/20_3_snd-ny-imprisonment-rates.html.
vii “Blueprint for Better Budget: A Plan of Action for New York State,” Empire Center for New York State Policy, 4 Jan. 2010, 12 May 2010, http://www.empirecenter.org/Documents/PDF/Blueprint-Final17.pdf.