Crime frays the social fabric. People feel unsafe, become less trustful of others, and increase their isolation. Contrary to popular rhetoric and beliefs, putting more people in prison is not the answer. However, good policing is one answer.
Between 1990 and 2011, the homicide rate in New York City dropped 80%. Other major crimes (robbery, burglary, auto theft) decreased even more. New York’s crime rate has fallen more rapidly and longer than the crime rate in other major U.S. cities. Concurrently, New York’s jail and prison population decreased by 28% as the rest of the nation’s jail and prison population increased by 65%.
New York obtained substantially better results by adopting policies that went against the conventional wisdom, i.e., putting people in prison will diminish crime rates. Instead of putting more people in prison, New York hired more police and changed its policing strategy. Changes included assigning more police to high crime areas, night duty, and shutting down open-air drug markets. (Franklin Zimring, “,” Wall Street Journal, January 28, 2012)
Prisons are an ineffective means of crime control (Ethical Musings Musing about prison).
Furthermore, paying police not only costs less than incarceration but also creates good jobs, reduces crime, and causes criminals to engage in activities that are more socially productive and beneficial than crime.
Municipalities will do well to emulate New York’s example and improve policing rather than imprison more people.