Saturday, September 16, 2006

Dogs and crime statistics

Off-leash dog advocacy groups frequently credit the reduction of crime in New York City with the presence of unleashed dogs in parks. It's always sounded like a ridiculous claim and I'm not really sure where they get their statistics. It might have been taken from an "New York Daily News" article (Clem Richardson Thursday, September 29th, 2005) where Prospect Park Alliance president Tupper Thomas actually made that claim. The problem is, there is absolutely no basis in fact for that conclusion.

In 2001 George L. Kelling (Senior Fellow, The Manhattan Institute for Policy Research) and William H. Sousa, Jr. (Director of Evaluation, Police Institute, Rutgers University) conducted a study that evaluated the sharp decline in crime in New York City beginning in 1990. Ms. Thomas contends that crime declined in the 1980's. She should just stick to what she knows.

Kelling and Sousa concluded that:

- “Broken windows” policing is significantly and consistently linked to declines in violent crime.

- Over 60,000 violent crimes were prevented from 1989 to 1998 because of “broken windows” policing.

- Changes in the number of young men of high-school age were not associated with a decline in violent crime.

- Decreasing use of crack cocaine was also not associated with a decline in violence.

- Other changes in police tactics and strategy may also be responsible for some of the City’s drop in crime. Case studies conducted in six City police precincts in 2000 show that precinct commanders often use “Compstat” technology to identify when specific types of crime, such as robberies or burglaries, become unusually serious problems. Incidences of such crimes often fell after the commanders employed specifically devised tactics to combat the identified problem.

- As implemented by the NYPD, “broken windows” policing is not the rote and mindless “zero tolerance” approach that critics often contend it is. Case studies show that police vary their approach to quality-of-life crimes, from citation and arrest on one extreme to warnings and reminders on the other, depending upon the circumstances of the offense.

Not surprising, no where is it mentioned that unleashed dogs played any role in New York City's crime reduction. You can read a research report by the U. S. Department of Justice here (PDF file):

-Patrick Langan Report-


I went back and read the report more closely and found that there was actually a slight decline in the mid to late 1980's. That was for automobile theft and burglary. Yup, no doubt, those unleased dogs in the parks really did the job.