Giuliani’s Rant on Crime in New York City: The Numbers Tell a Different Story

Former Mayor Rudy Giuliani launched an attack on Mayor de Blasio, blaming him for rising crime and crowing about how safe New York City had been until de Blasio took over. Giuliani reportedly said, “We went from being the most dangerous city to the safest large city in America, and we remained there until this idiot took over.“ It is certainly terrible that murders so far this year have increased compared to last year, nobody likes to see that. But if one chose to actually go back to Giuliani’s final year as mayor, 2001, the city was in fact less safe, with far higher crime levels across the board, including murder, than today.

NYPD Crime Statistics clearly bear this out. Before taking a look at the overall stats, one can acknowledge murders are up this year in the city compared to last year.

According to NYPD data for the year to date, there have been 321 murders in New York City from the beginning of the year through the week of September 13, compared to 230 through the same period last year, a 39.6% increase.

1 compstat citywide

Nonetheless, murders were substantially higher in Giuliani’s final year in office than they are now. Below is the NYPD Historical Perspective data set, also published by the NYPD as part of the CompStat Crime Statistics along with the current crime stats. There were 649 murders in 2001, the former mayor’s final year, compared to 319 in 2019.

2 histo pers

With 321 murders in the 36 weeks through September 13, 2020, the pace of murders in the city this year is about nine per week. Even if that pace continues, there would still be fewer murders in 2020 than in 2001, or 1998. With 15 weeks and a few days left in 2020, that pace would bring the City to 470 murders, about 28% below 2001 and 24% below the low point of Giuliani’s mayoralty in ‘98. That means to return to the lowest yearly number of homicides of the Giuliani Administration would be, to some like Giuliani, a return to ‘The Bad Old Days.’

In addition to the number of murders being far higher in 2001 than 2019, and higher in ‘01 than 2020 even if the current pace is sustained, levels of crime as measured by the FBI Index of major felonies across New York City were higher in all categories in Giuliani’s final year in 2001 than in 2019.

The NYPD CompStat table shows crime in New York City in the seven major felony categories was down 41% in 2019 compared to 2001, and 55% lower than 1998.

3 historical pers

Crime in the city in 2020 is actually down or flat in some categories compared to last year, and has spiked in some other categories. Below is the NYPD comparison for the seven Index crimes for this year, compared to last year.

5 citywide

There are various ups and downs in the crime numbers this year compared to last. The number of reported rapes through September 13 declined from 1,284 to 989, down 23% over the same period from a year ago. Robbery and felony assault levels are flat, down one-half of one percent for robberies and down 3% for felony assault. Burglaries are up 41% and larcenies are down 19%. Grand larceny auto is up over 60%, rising from 3,600 by this time last year to nearly 5,900 this year.

Giuliani was praised for his success in cutting vehicle theft, but in 2001 there were still over 29,600 vehicle thefts, or 569 a week. Despite the considerable increase in vehicle theft this year, the current pace is 163 a week, still down 71% compared to Giuliani’s final year. The current pace of robberies remains 50% below the 2001 level, and the current pace of burglaries remains 54% below 2001.

One can go back to Giuliani’s first year to take a look at murders in the city, and all the way forward to the present, through the Bloomberg and now de Blasio administrations:

NYC MURDERS 1994-2019

  Giuliani  Bloomberg  De Blasio
 19941561  2002 587 2014 328
 1995 1177 2003 597 2015 352
 1996 983 2004 570 2016 335
 1997 770 2005539 2017 292
 1998 663 2006 596 2018 289
 1999 671 2007 494 2019 319
 2000 673 2008 522 2020 thru 9/13 321
 2001 649 2009 471  
   2010 534  
   2012  414  
   2013 332  

(Source: Wikipedia (there appear to be some small discrepancies between the Wikipedia data and the NYPD Statistics as presently published))

There were 7,117 murders in Giuliani’s eight years as mayor of New York City and 6,171 murders in Bloomberg’s 12 years in office. For the first 6 and 2/3 years under de Blasio, there have been 2,236 murders. I think that means the city is more safe, not less, under Mayor de Blasio than under Mayor Giuliani.

The point here is not to deny Rudy Giuliani some credit for a safer New York in the 1990s, or to suggest that the current increase in crime isn’t a serious concern — it is, and the mayor, the Police Department, and the city government need to address it in a way that brings people together, no matter how difficult that is. But as the data show, Guiliani’s comments about de Blasio’s New York City do not hold much water.

Jim Brennan was a member of the New York State Assembly for 32 years, where he chaired four committees. On Twitter @JimBrennanNY.

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