murder rates in New York State, from the 1960 to 2000 shows the great US
crime wave, a little more dramatic in New York than elsewhere. Notice the shape
of the sudden decline at the end. It's an exponential decay curve, that has
continued since. We knew the collapse of the crime rates was mysterious. This is
why. Practically the only thing that could explain sudden collapse and decay of
crime rates is if the crime culture was a living thing, and it died. Could that
be? Yes, sure, think of the historic rise and fall of the crime rate as
representing a short lived culture. It could die for the same reason the Soviet
Union collapsed and died, loosing it's appeal to those involved. With the crime
wave I think it was the crack cocaine that finally did it. By the 90’s the
ghetto anger of the 60's was no longer fresh, there were limited but real gains
in civil rights and economic opportunity to replace it, and crack was really
messing up the drug lords' lives, all combining to make the criminal lifestyle
stop being cool.
To my surprise after posting the above (slightly edited now) I discovered the NY Times had an excellent Week In Review piece on the very subject, “Where Killers are Out of Style”. And I had a chance to discuss it at length with my criminologist friend John. He doesn’t see cohesive self-organizing natural systems 'lurking' behind everything that happens the way I do, but did admit that there was also an unexplained resurgence of New York City as a whole, highlighted by the rejuvenation of Times Square and the run up to the high tech. boom, at about the same time.
I don’t think any of these kinds of things are run from the mayor’s office, as Guiliani claimed over and over. Yes, the mayor did add police and got them back in the neighborhoods and to tend to quality of life crimes etc. That’s good, but it was in concert with a wave of good things happening, and crime didn’t decline proportionately, but collapsed, and nationwide, catching absolutely everybody off guard! I think these short and long surges and flows of culture display classic natural open system behavior, like ecology, like storms and weather, They are much better treated as independently evolving living things in their own right. They just don't have a spokesperson. It definitely adds to the intrigue that they’re made from us but we can be quite unaware of them, act dynamically as wholes, but have no fixed parts or visible structures.
It's hard to read culture without bias of course. I don't have it documented, but in all the articles I've read about this, including this one, I don't think I've read any observations on what happened from those most involved. That's very odd. They surely must have noticed something being different, with the crime rate dropping by 2/3! ..It's on my list to find some people to ask. (see Oct 22, 05 follow-up on this)