A look at Bill Bratton's crime rate track record


When Bill Bratton was police commissioner in New York City, crime went down under his get-tough approach. But what about what was happening in San Francisco during that same time period?

Bratton believes stricter law enforcement means safer communities. But there are other experts who believe that it's not how many people you arrest, but how many people you prevent from being arrested.

The statistics prove that those two divergent policies were just as successful in the 1990's, even though Bratton got all the credit with his tough on crime approach.

When Bratton was police commissioner of New York during the 1990's, the city beefed up its force with 7,000 new officers. His basic philosophy -- identify the hotspots where violent crimes occur and flood them with police.

During his tenure, stop-and-frisk incidents skyrocketed, averaging 700,000 a year. There were more arrests than ever. The result -- crime plummeted.

This is what Bratton said in a phone interview with ABC7 News last week, "On the issue of crime, I have a strong belief that police have the significant impact on reducing it and you reduce it by effectively controlling illegal behavior to such an extent that if you change the behavior."

But crime was also plummeting across the country in the 90's.

"The crime rate in the United States peaked at around 1992 to 1993 and then went on a precipitous decline that has continued through the 1990's and into the 2000's," said San Francisco State University criminology professor Dan Macallair.

Macallair also heads the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice. He says at the same time during the 90's, San Francisco was pursuing a far more progressive approach to crime control.

That was during the decade when first Tony Ribera and then Fred Lau became police chiefs. There was more of an emphasis on community policing and intervention and more alternatives to incarceration.

"It provided a wonderful contrast between the hardline New York City policies and the more lenient San Francisco policies and what were the results?" Macallair said.

In San Francisco, violent crimes plummeted by 47 percent. The much heralded decline in New York City was one percentage point below San Francisco. In fact, SF's drop in major crimes was almost double the number of 10 other comparable cities in the country.

"At the same time ironically, San Francisco was being criticized for its liberal and lenient criminal justice policies," Macallair said.

One footnote -- when San Francisco's violent crimes dropped 47 percent, Terence Hallinan was the district attorney part of that time. Many called him soft on crime. He didn't believe in three strikes. He didn't prosecute quality of life crimes.

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