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New York Murder Mystery: The True Story Behind the Crime Crash of the 1990s
by Andrew Karmen
Publisher: New York University Press 2000
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In 1990, New Yorkers were being murdered at a record clip of over 2,200 a year. By the end of 1997, the body count had dived to 767, one third of what it was a mere seven years before. The number of robberies, car thefts, and other crimes also plummeted. This precipitous, unprecedented, and unexpected "crime crash" -- the most dramatic example of a broader, nationwide trend in the 1990s -- has been viewed by many as nothing less than a miracle. Andrew Karmen, the leader of a research team assembled to explain this phenomenon, here tracks a quarter century of murder in the city Americans most commonly associate with rampant street crime. Providing both a local and a national context for New York's plunging crime rate, Karmen tests -- and debunks -- the many self-serving explanations for the decline. While crediting a more effective police force for its efforts, Karmen also emphasizes the decline of the crack epidemic, skyrocketing incarceration rates, favorable demographics, a healthy economy, and an "outbreak" of good behavior. He concludes by offering predictions for the future. New York Murder Mystery is the most authoritative study to date of why crime rates rise and fall.

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