The Rise and Fall of Crime in New York City: A Timeline


This week’s feature story, The Tragedy of Louis Scarcella, explores the context of the now-infamous Brooklyn detective’s career. It explained how the culture of policing changed over the years in response to the city’s rising crime rate. Crime, in many ways, shaped the modern history of New York City.

And so here is a timeline chronicling the rise and the fall of crime in New York City:

See also this week’s feature story: The Tragedy of Louis Scarcella

February 1960: U.S. unemployment rate is 4.8 percent.

1963: there are 548 murders in New York City.

1964: New York City hosts the World’s Fair, dedicated to “Man’s Achievement on a Shrinking Globe in an Expanding Universe.”

1967: 746 murders.

1968: At a crime conference, the Manhattan Borough President, the Bronx Borough President, and the Brooklyn District Attorney declare that police corruption helped spark the rising crime rate. “It is senseless to believe youngsters do not see this or to expect that it will create in them a respect for the law,” said Manhattan Borough President Percy Sutton.

1969: 1,043 murders.

April 1970: Officer Frank Serpico details NYPD corruption for a New York Times expose. “Graft Paid to Police Here Said to Run into Millions,” reads the A-1 headline.

October 1970: Mayor John Lindsay names Patrick Murphy NYPD police commissioner.

December 1972: Lindsay’s Knapp Commission issues its final report on police corruption and suggested reforms.

1972: 1,691 murders.

1974: NYPD ends overnight subway patrols in order to have more officers to combat daytime crime.

May 1975: U.S. unemployment rate is 9 percent.

1975: New York City is close to broke. Mayor Abe Beame’s staff drafts a statement announcing that the city is defaulting on $100 million in loans. The city’s lawyer files a bankruptcy petition at the State Supreme Court. At the last moment, officials avoid bankruptcy by agreeing to deep budget cuts.

1977: David “Son of Sam” Berkowitz murders six and injures seven more over a 13-month span.

July 1977: Blackout. Looting and fires. More than 3,700 arrests. More than $300 million cost to the city. Post cover the next day reads, “24 Hours of Terror.”

May 1979: Six-year-old Etan Patz goes missing during a walk to the bus stop in SoHo. Becomes the first kid on a milk carton.

1979: There are more than 250 felonies each week in the subway system.

January 1980: Metropolitan Transportation Authority chairman Richard Ravitch says that he does not let his 14-year-old son ride the subway at night.

1980: Census tallies 7 million people in New York City, 800,000 fewer than a decade earlier.

1980 or so: Crack cocaine arrives in New York City. It is unlike any other drug. It is very cheap and very addictive and highly profitable. Parents fall into addiction. Junkies rob. Dealers battle for territory.

June 1982: Transit Authority worker Willie Turks is beaten to death by a group of white men in Gravesend, Brooklyn, the first in a string of high-profile racially motivated murders over the course of the decade.

November 1982: U.S. unemployment rate hits 10.8 percent, the highest of the post-World War II era.

1982: Police force dwindles to around 22,000 officers, down from around 34,000 in 1975.

December 1984: Bernhard Goetz shoots four youths on the subway, becomes a hero to many New Yorkers.

1986: Michael Griffin is beaten by a group of white men at Howard Beach, Queens. During his attempt to escape, he is hit by a car and killed.

April 1989: Trisha Meili is raped and beaten while jogging through Central Park. Daily News cover the next day reads, “Wolf Pack’s Prey: Female Jogger near death after savage attack by roving gang.”

August 1986: 16-year-old Yusef Hawkins is beaten and shot to death by a mob of youths in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn.

1990: Upon taking office, Mayor David Dinkins begins a police hiring spree. Nearly 8,000 officers join the NYPD over the next two years.

February 1990: Rabbi Chaskel Werzberger is fatally shot by by a jewel thief fleeing the scene of an attempted robbery in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.

September 1990: Tourist Brian Watkins is stabbed to death when he tries to protect his parents from a group of muggers on a midtown Manhattan subway platform.

September 1990: “Crime-ravaged city cries out for help: Dave, Do Something” declares a Post headline.

1990: Murder rate hits record-high of 2,245.

1992: 1,995 murders.

1994: Shortly after taking office, Mayor Rudy Giuliani names Bill Bratton NYPD police commissioner. Bratton applies the Broken Windows theory of policing, which stresses enforcing quality-of-life laws.

1994: The NYPD begins using CompStat, a computerized crime-tracking system, to identify the highest-crime blocks in the city.

1994: 1,561 murders, 400 fewer than 1993’s total.

November 1995: Subway token booth clerk Harry Kaufman is killed when a group of young men pour gasoline into the coin slot and light the booth on fire in East Flatbush, Brooklyn.

1995: 1,177 murders.

1998: 633 murders.

April 2000: U.S. unemployment rate drops to 3.8 percent, the lowest it has been since the ’60s.

January 2002: Mayor Michael Bloomberg takes office and names Ray Kelly police commissioner. Kelly increases the department’s use of stop-and-frisk.

2002: There are 97,296 stop-and-frisk incidents.

2008: there are more than 500,000 stop-and-frisk incidents.

March 2010: Construction on the Barcays Center begins in Downtown Brooklyn, marking a turning point in the development and gentrification sweeping across the borough.

November 6, 2012: For the first time in the city’s recorded history, there are no reported shootings, stabbings, or murders on this day.

2012: 414 murders.