Wednesday, November 14, 2007


The New York Times reports that Rudy Giuliani is releasing his first TV ad in New Hampshire -- an ad in which he says that when he became mayor of New York, "It was a city that was in financial crisis, a city that was the crime capital of America."

(Watch the ad here; read the script here.)

Let me take that second claim first. Was New York "the crime capital of America"? Giuliani became mayor on January 1, 1994. In 1993, New York didn't even make the FBI's list of cities with the 20 worst homicide rates. That list included some less prominent cities (the worst was Gary, Indiana) -- but it also included Detroit, Washington, New Orleans, Atlanta, Kansas City, St. Louis, Baltimore, and Miami.

In fact, if you look at the FBI's city numbers for 1993, New York's rate of crime was far behind the pack in every category -- muder, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, larceny, and motor vehicle theft. The chart is below; click on it to enlarge it, or read it in this PDF (it's the 7th page).

Did New York have the largest number of murders for any major city in 1993? Well, yeah (download the spreadsheet here if you want to see the numbers) -- but that's because New York City has more than twice as many people as the next-largest U.S. city. Your odds of being a crime victim in New York were noticeably lower than in most of the big cities on the list, even before Giuliani became mayor.

We can argue all day about how much credit Giuliani deserves for the crime reduction that took place on his watch. What's not in dispute is that his two terms as mayor (1994-2001) coincided with a huge nationwide decline in violent crime:

(Yes, that chart's from Wikipedia, but it's based on these Department of Justice stats.)


And when Giuliani says New York was "a city that was in financial crisis" before he became mayor (implying that he turned that around), that's really the rooster taking credit for the sunrise -- the Giuliani years were (except for 2001) the Clinton years, and were rather good years for the economy of the entire nation.

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