More on Rudy Giuliani's successful crime fighting in New York:
As mayor, he instituted a "zero tolerance" approach that cracked down on quality-of-life offenses like panhandling and public urination (in a city where some streets reeked of urine), in order to restore a sense of civic order that he believed would discourage larger crimes. "Murder and graffiti are two vastly different crimes," he explained. "But they are part of the same continuum, and a climate that tolerates one is more likely to tolerate the other." He linked the Dinkins era's permissive climate, which tolerated the squeegee men (street-corner windshield cleaners who coerced drivers into giving them money at the entrances to Manhattan), to the rise of more serious crime. "The police started ignoring all kinds of offenses," Mr. Giuliani later recounted of the Dinkins years. They "became," he deadpanned, "highly skilled observers of crime."
Mr. Giuliani changed the primary mission of the police department to preventing crime from happening rather than merely responding to it once it had occurred. His police chief, William Bratton, reorganized the NYPD, emphasizing a street-crimes unit that moved around the city, flooding high-crime areas and getting guns off the street. Mr. Bratton also changed the department's scheduling. Crime was open for business 24 hours a day, but most detectives, including narcotics cops, had previously gone off duty at 5 p.m., just as criminals were coming on "duty." No more.
The department brought modern management techniques to its new mission. It began compiling a computerized database to track the city's crime patterns and the effectiveness of the NYPD's responses to them. That database, known as Compstat, helped police target their manpower where it was needed, and in due course it became a national model. The department drove authority down to its precinct captains and emphasized that it expected results from these top managers. Mr. Bratton replaced a third of the city's 76 precinct commanders within a few months. "If you were to manage a bank with 76 branches every day, you would get a profit-and-loss statement from the bank," explained Mr. Giuliani. "After a week or so, you would see branches that were going in the wrong direction, and then you would take management action to try to reverse the trend. That is precisely what is happening in the police department."
The policing innovations led to a historic drop in crime far beyond what anyone could have imagined, with total crime down by some 64% during the Giuliani years, and murder (the most reliable crime statistic) down 67%, from 1,960 in Mr. Dinkins's last year to 640 in Mr. Giuliani's last year. The number of cars stolen in New York City every year plummeted by an astounding 78,000.