08 November 2009
Simon Heffer sticks to the view that it was Giuliani and Bratton’s zero tolerance strategy that made New York a nicer, safer place. In Freakonomics Levitt and Dubner deny this, saying the drop in crime had already begun, there had already been a police hiring binge, crime was dropping everywhere not just in New York and this – their killer counter-intuitive argument – was a result of the legalisation of abortion. Poor single women started aborting future hoodlums. I don’t know which side I’m on. The improvement in New York since the seventies when I first went there is certainly spectacular. London is now a more alienating city. One question would be: is the improvement in New York solely a function of the falling crime rate or is there some other force at work? The city feels better in all kinds of ways, not just because one no longer feels one might be mugged. Perhaps this is a knock-on effect or perhaps the zero tolerance strategy drew the citizens together, gave them a communal purpose, in some intangible way. This would, of course, be reinforced by 9/11. Anyway, I don’t know and I’m recording a discussion with Levitt for Radio 3 on Tuesday, so perhaps I ought to make up my mind.