Mayor Bloomberg announced yesterday that the city's incarceration rate has dramatically dropped over the course of his administration compared with the rest of the country. “New York’s crime rate has gone down more quickly and more steeply than the rest of the country, and we are the model for low crime in this nation,” he said at a press conference in the Bronx. “But unlike the rest of the country, the number of people we are incarcerating has also gone down.” But there's a flipside to those statistics: a record number of people have been arrested since Bloomberg came to office. Which seems to indicate that while there have been a hell of a lot of arrests, there have not been a lot of convictions—which makes sense in a city where stop-and-frisks are a norm, and bullshit low-level arrests happen every day.
According to DNAInfo, the number of NYPD arrests has jumped nearly 23 percent since Bloomberg took office. There were 338,788 collars in 2002 compared to 413,573 last year; there were 98,000 stop-and-frisks in Bloomberg's first term, compared with nearly 700K last year, a 600 percent increase.
At the same time, The NY Times reports that there were 699 inmates per 100K residents in NYC in 2001, compared with 620 inmates per 100K in the country; NYC had a 13 percent higher rate than the rest of the United States. But in 2011, NYC had 474 inmates per 100K residents, compared with 650 inmates per 100K in the country; NYC had an incarceration rate 27 percent lower. "Over that 10-year period, the city’s incarceration rate decreased 32 percent while the national rate rose 5 percent," they write. These are positive numbers, but it is worth noting our city rate still puts us higher than all but ten countries on Earth.
Those positive statistics led to Bloomberg splashing a little champagne during his appearance yesterday: “Some people say the only way you stop crime is to incarcerate,” Bloomberg said at a Department of Correction graduation ceremony at Lehman College. “We have proven that to be untrue: successfully preventing crime and breaking cycles of criminal activity can save thousands from a life of cycling through the criminal justice system.”
So altogether, felony arrests have plummeted and misdemeanor arrests have soared. And Michael Jacobson, the president of the nonpartisan Vera Institute of Justice and a former commissioner of the Correction Department, sees this as an improvement: “Clearly the fact that policing strategies have led to declines in both the city jail population and the state prison population is inarguable,” he said.
City Councilman Jumaane Williams, who has often been at odds with Bloomberg over stop-and-frisk, agreed with that assessment: “I think that’s the direction that we definitely need to be going," he told DNAInfo. “The lock-'em-up strategies of the past haven’t worked."