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Policing, drugs, and the homicide decline in New York City in the 1990s

Archived Abstract of Former PSC Researcher

Messner, S.F., Sandro Galea, K.J. Tardiff, M. Tracy, A. Bucciarelli, T.M. Piper, V. Frye, and D. Vlahov. 2007. "Policing, drugs, and the homicide decline in New York City in the 1990s." Criminology, 45(2): 385-413.

This research reassesses the role of policing and drugs in the sharp homicide decline in New York City in the 1990s. Drawing on theoretical arguments about "broken windows" policing and lethal violence associated with the diffusion of crack cocaine, we estimate the effects of measures of misdemeanor arrests and cocaine prevalence on homicide rates with pooled, cross-sectional time-series data for 74 New York City precincts over the 1990-1999 period. The results of mixed regression models reveal a significant negative effect of changes in misdemeanor arrests and a significant positive effect of changes in cocaine prevalence on changes in total homicide rates. Additional analyses of homicide disaggregated by weapon indicate that the effects of misdemeanor arrests and cocaine prevalence emerge for gun-related but not for non-gun-related homicides. Overall, the research generally supports influential interpretations of the homicide decline in New York City but also raises questions about underlying mechanisms that warrant more inquiry in future research.

DOI:10.1111/j.1745-9125.2007.00082.x (Full Text)

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