Crime in New York City: The Impact of Compstat

William H. Sousa, Rutgers University

By nearly all measures, New York City has become a safer place since the late 80s and early 90s. Nevertheless, disagreement as to the causes of the crime drop remains. Some argue that crime reduction in the city is the result of such factors as changing demography, changing drug use patterns, and/or the improved economy. Others claim that starting in the early 90s, changes within the New York Police Department had major impacts on crime rates. One of the police innovations credited with the crime drop is the implementation of the Compstat process. Compstat was designed as a management technique that combines measures of accountability with a problem-solving "theory of action--accurate and timely intelligence, rapid deployment effective tactics, and follow-up and assessment. This paper explores the NYPD "theory of action" and its effectiveness at reducing crime at the precinct level. In doing so, time series analyses of crime data, observations of crime strategy meetings, interviews with officers, and observations on police ride-alongs are utilized.

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Updated 05/20/2006