This article examines multiple factors that influenced homicide rates in New York City during the 1990s. New York City experienced a massive decline in homicides during that time frame, from 2,245 in 1990 to 633 in 1998. There are several theories about what policies and conditions led to this drop.
The authors conducted a cross-section time-series study to look for correlations between gun-related homicide rates and changes in a variety of community factors, including deaths due to drug or alcohol overdose, public assistance, and misdemeanor policing. The authors used data from the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner of New York City, the New York City Human Resources Administration, the New York City Mayer’s Management office, and the U.S. Census Bureau. The data were broken down by precinct and by age of victim: 15-24 years (youths), 25-34 years (young adults) and 35 years and older (adults).
- Decreased cocaine consumption was associated with a decline in homicide rates for youths and adults. Decreased alcohol consumption was associated with a decline in homicide rates for young adults.
- Increased receipt of public assistance was associated with a decline in homicides of young adults.
- Increased misdemeanor policing was associated with a decline in homicides of adults.
A number of behavioral and social changes had age-specific effects on gun homicide rates in New York City in the 1990s. This research suggests that drug, police and public assistance policies influence homicide rates in complex ways, affecting each age group differently.