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by Peter Moskos

November 18, 2016

The best of times, the worst of times

Ah, the ol' Tale of Two Cities trope. But the diverging homicidal paths of Chicago and New York City are striking. The New York Post has a surprisingly good (especially for the NY Post) article on homicide in Chicago and NYC.

These are raw numbers and not a rate. Chicago is roughly one-third the size of New York City. [Notwithstanding rumors to the contrary, the national increase in murder would still be large, even without Chicago.]

First observe NYC's unheralded murder drop from 2011 to 2013. Police weren't even willing to take credit! Why? Because it corresponded with the demise of stop and frisk. And then liberal Mayor de Blasio came on the scene in 2013. If you listened to cops, the city was going to immediately descend to some pre-Giuliani Orwellian hell. That did not happen.

It turns out that quota-inspired stops and misdemeanor marijuana arrests are not good policing. Now we knew that (though even I'll admit I was surprised that literally hundreds of thousands of stops didn't have some measurable deterrent effect on gun violence.)

In Chicago, stops also stopped, but unlike New York, it was not because cops stopped stopping people they didn't want to stop. Cops in Chicago got the message to stop being proactive lest controversy ensues. Bowing to political and legal pressure, police in Chicago (and also Baltimore) became less proactive in response to the bad shooting of Laquan McDonald, excessive stop-related paperwork, the threat of personal lawsuits based on these same forms, and a mayor in crisis mode.

Less proactive policing and less racially disparate policing is a stated goal of the ACLU and DOJ. See, if police legally stop and then frisk six guys loitering on a drug corner and (lucky day!) find a gun on one and drugs on another, the remaining four guys, at least according to some, are "innocent." I beg to differ. (Though I should point out that in the real world, the "hit rate" never comes close to 20 percent.)

And then there's my beloved foot patrol. Policing is the interaction of police with the public. But there are no stats I know of to determine how many cops, at any given moment, are out and about and not sitting inside a car waiting for a call. From the Post:
A high-ranking NYPD official credited the city’s increasing safety to the widespread, targeted deployment of cops on foot patrol.

“Most cities only place foot posts in business districts. We put our foot posts in the most violent areas of the city, as well as our business district,” the source said.

“It’s not a fun assignment, but it’s critical to keeping people safe.”
Meanwhile in Chicago:
Former Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy — who was fired last year amid controversy over the police shooting of an unarmed teen — said criticism of policing methods by local officials there had left cops “hamstrung.”

“They’re not getting out of their cars and stopping people. That’s because of all the politics here,” said McCarthy, a former NYPD cop.

“In Chicago, performance is less important than politics. It’s called ‘The Chicago Way,’ and the results are horrific.”
My buddy Gene O'Donnell says:
“The harsh reality in Chicago is that you have the collapse of the criminal justice system,” O’Donnell said.

“The police aren’t even on the playing field anymore, and the police department is in a state of collapse.”

O’Donnell, who was an NYPD cop during the 1980s, said that although “New York had a similar dynamic” during the height of the crack epidemic, “we had a transformation, because people realized you don’t have to tolerate that.”
Guns are part of the mix:
Veteran Democratic political consultant Hank Sheinkopf noted that Chicago “is much more porous to guns” than New York, with a “direct pipeline” leading there in “a straight line from Mississippi.”
But that is more of an excuse than an explanation. Newark, New Jersey, just a PATH-train subway ride away from Manhattan, has more of a gun problem than New York City. Hard to imagine a subway and a few bridges plugs the gun pipeline.

There are other differences between Chicago and New York in terms of poverty and segregation (greater in Chicago), commitment to public housing that actually works (greater in New York), and maybe even lower-crime foreign immigrants (greater in New York... but I say "maybe" because it's still substantial in Chicago, with 22% foreign born).

And then there's this:
Psychology professor Arthur Lurigio of Chicago’s Loyola University cited an “intergenerational” component to the mayhem, with sons following their fathers — and even grandfathers — into the city’s extensive and ingrained gang culture.

“Chicago’s problem wasn’t a day in the making — it’s 60 years in the making,” he said.

“Working at the jail as a staff psychologist, I’ve seen two, maybe three generations pass through.”
I don't mean to criticize an academic willing to highlight culture and the inter-generational transmission of violence, but I quibble with the line that Chicago's problems are 60 years in the making. I mean, yes, it's true.... But the explosion of homicide in the past two years is, well, a problem exactly two years in the making.

Chicago may always have a higher homicide rate than New York because of history and structural issues. But the short-term solution is getting more cops out of their cars, back on beats, and supported when they legally confront violent people we pay police to confront.

Violence-prevention depends, in part, on such confrontation. And since violence is racially disparate, this will mean racially disparate policing. Innocent people -- disproportionately innocent black people -- will get stopped. There's no way to square this circle (though we can help sand down the rougher corners).

The alternative to proactive policing is what is happening in Chicago. Police have responded to public and political (and legal) pressure: stops are down, arrests are down, and so are police-involved shootings and complaints against police. Police are staying out of trouble and letting society sort out the violence problem. How's that working out?


Unknown said...

You're certainly right about this being a decent article. Something that struck me was the difference in percentage of detectives and at least partly for that reason the wildly different clearance rates. No surprise that low clearance means a sense of impunity which means more bad guys ready to act and fewer people ready to provide information about them. That drives up the number of murders which means it's even harder to clear making for a downward spiral.

john mosby said...

Prof, can you elaborate on how exactly NYPD and CPD differ in their new stop/frisk practices? Has NYPD managed to hit some "sweet spot" where they do 'real' Terry stops but no longer do stops-for-stats? And if so, why has CPD been unable to achieve that?



Moskos said...

That's exactly what I'm proposing, that the NYPD has hit a sweet spot.

If police (or any workers) feel that they will get in trouble for being proactive (stopping criminals, clearing drug corners) and cannot in get in trouble for doing the minimum, of course they will do the minimum. Especially if doing less proactive police work is exactly what they are being asked to do.

In Chicago having stop-forms go to lawyers looking to sue cops had a chilling effect. In Baltimore charging six cops with crimes (and failing to prove a crime) had a chilling effect. But no, I can't really elaborate with any confidence on why things are still working in NYC. Maybe others can?

infornific said...

I wonder if it's an ironic consequence of having de Blasio as mayor. When you've got a very liberal mayor who's occasionally clashed with the police, maybe the police quietly get cut more slack on how they do their jobs. Or de Blasio is shrewd enough to figure out when and where he can push on civil liberties while keeping crime down.

Moskos said...

I'm thinking de Blasio has been sly like a fox when it comes to policing. After a very rocky start -- bad choices, clashes, and back-turning notwithstanding -- in terms of substance, de Blasio has been very pro-police while he's managed to deflect the anti-police element of his lefty base.

De Blasio knows he needs to keep crime down, he sees what is happening in other cities, and he believes proactive police are an important part of crime-prevention. He appointed Bratton; he supports quality-of-life policing and Broken Windows; he got O'Neill in there as Bratton's replacement without any political battle(!). Imagine the potential controversy had de Blasio said he was looking for Bratton's replacement, made a short list, and then picked the white guy from the NYPD. Instead, O'Neill's appointment came off as a fait accompli. That's political genius, if you ask me.

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Ryanaldo said...

Most of the blacks in Chicago descend from the American deep South. NYC, much more of them descend from Caribbean immigrants.