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This month Harper’s takes a very serious look at Rudy Giuliani, who could very possibly become the next President of the United States. One of the things that has always distinguished Giuliani was his tough stance on crime—he may have been a dictatorial mayor, but rape, homicide, burglary and automobile theft all fell between 50 and 80 percent in the 1990s.
Under his leadership from 1994-2001, as the former mayor has noted, New York was the only major U.S. city where crime declined “every single year.” To underscore that point, Giuliani is running radio ads praising himself for this very accomplishment. And a number of commentators are with the mayor—for example, William Tucker, writing in the March American Spectator, recounted a conversation he had defending the former mayor an Upper West side restaurant: “Didn’t [Giuliani] stop crime? Wouldn’t [this] group be worried about walking home tonight if it hadn’t been for Giuliani?”
Except it turns out that Giuliani’s claims to be the savior of New York might be overstated. “When you’re passing around the credit,” noted criminologist Franklin Zimring told me, “there’s an awful lot of deserving candidates.” Zimring, the author of _ The Great American Crime Decline_, has spent a great deal of time studying how crime rates fell in the 1990s and finds Giuliani’s claims to be self-serving. First, he said, during Giuliani’s time as mayor criminal activity was declining nationwide. Homicide, rape, burglary and automobile theft all dropped between 37 and 41 percent in the 1990s, according to the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reports—all the result of social and policy changes that were taking place in New York and in the nation at large. Thus, according to Zimring, at least half—and as much as three-quarters—of that drop in New York crime “would have happened if Rudy Giuliani had never been born.”
Whatever portion is due to Rudy, he obviously intended to take credit for the whole shebang. As Zimring pointed out, New York Police Commissioner William Bratton and his deputy for crime control strategies, Jack Maple, instituted the use of COMPSTAT–an approach that maps criminal activity and targets problem areas—in 1994. By many accounts, COMPSTAT was a resounding success. So why, two years later, would Giuliani allegedly force Bratton out of office? Perhaps because Bratton made the cover of Time, taking the spotlight away from the mayor. (It took the two ten years to bury the hatchet.).
Giuliani also takes credit for the “aggressive street policing” policy he and Bratton implemented at the beginning of his tenure that allowed for more aggressive policing by New York’s officers, with crackdowns on offenses like subway-turnstile jumping. But the 35 percent increase in police staffing that added 13,000 new employees to the NYPD, which Zimring considers another driving force in the crime decline, began under Giuliani’s predecessor, David Dinkins, and then was continued by Giuliani. Crime declined each month during the last three years of the Dinkins’ administration, too.
Zimring says Giuliani is “what Hollywood calls a supporting player” in the New York crime decline, but doubts that Giuliani will portray himself as such in his next campaign ad. “That,” he said, “doesn’t fit into a sound bite.”
Bernie Becker is editorial assistant to Ken Silverstein.
More from Bernie Becker:
On a Friday evening in January, a thousand people at the annual California Native Plant Society conference in San Jose settled down to a banquet and a keynote speech delivered by an environmental historian named Jared Farmer. His chosen topic was the eucalyptus tree and its role in California’s ecology and history. The address did not go well. Eucalyptus is not a native plant but a Victorian import from Australia. In the eyes of those gathered at the San Jose DoubleTree, it qualified as “invasive,” “exotic,” “alien” — all dirty words to this crowd, who were therefore convinced that the tree was dangerously combustible, unfriendly to birds, and excessively greedy in competing for water with honest native species.
In his speech, Farmer dutifully highlighted these ugly attributes, but also quoted a few more positive remarks made by others over the years. This was a reckless move. A reference to the tree as “indigenously Californian” elicited an abusive roar, as did an observation that without the aromatic import, the state would be like a “home without its mother.” Thereafter, the mild-mannered speaker was continually interrupted by boos, groans, and exasperated gasps. Only when he mentioned the longhorn beetle, a species imported (illegally) from Australia during the 1990s with the specific aim of killing the eucalyptus, did he earn a resounding cheer.
Percentage of Britons who cannot name the city that provides the setting for the musical Chicago:
An Australian entrepreneur was selling oysters raised in tanks laced with Viagra.
A tourism company in Australia announced a service that will allow users to take the “world’s biggest selfies,” and a Texas man accidentally killed himself while trying to pose for a selfie with a handgun.
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“Shelby is waiting for something. He himself does not know what it is. When it comes he will either go back into the world from which he came, or sink out of sight in the morass of alcoholism or despair that has engulfed other vagrants.”