The Crime Drop – a Personal View

November 7, 2015
Posted by Jay Livingston

With all the talk about a “Ferguson Effect” and crime on the rise (both disputed by the Obama administration), I had a personal reminder of how far we’ve come since the bad old days when crime rates were much higher. I should start by saying that I live between Needle Park and “Death Wish.”

(Click on an image for a slightly larger view.)

 In the 1971 film “The Panic in Needle Park,” Al Pacino is a junkie hanging out with other junkies in what is and was officially known as Verdi Square. 

In the 1974 film “Death Wish,” Charles Bronson lives in an apartment building at Riverside Dr. and 75th St. It is in that apartment that vicious criminals break in, beat his wife savagely (she soon dies) and rape his daughter (she becomes catatonic.). Bronson becomes a vigilante, scoring his first kill when a mugger attacks him in Riverside Park.*

In the 1980s, my car was broken into twice (I park on the street). The bad guys smashed the window and checked the glove compartment for anything valuable. Car radios were often taken but mine never was. Car theft was rampant. One evening I saw a man standing next to a spot where only a couple hours earlier he had parked his car. Now it was gone. Word was to avoid Riverside Drive. Cars parked there were more likely targets.

That was then.  The crime I was a victim of – breaking into a car and stealing stuff – is classified as “theft” or “larceny” for purposes of crime statistics.

(The data is for New York State – I couldn’t quickly find NYC data –  but since the City accounts for more than half the crime, this graph reflects the actual trend. If anything, the real drop in NYC was greater than what the state data shows.)

This week I was reminded of those days when I would see shattered glass on the street – evidence of car break-ins. Last weekend, my son borrowed the car, and when he returned, he found a parking spot right across from Charles Bronson’s “Death Wish” apartment building (see the map above). I didn’t need the car, so it wasn’t till Friday that I went to move it and discovered that he had left the passenger-side window half open.

Fearing the worst, I quickly checked the glove compartment. Everything was there – maps, cell phone charger. Ditto the trunk – beach chairs, bike rack. I sniffed the car for signs that a homeless person might have camped there, but no. In five days, the only intruders were a few leaves that had blown in.

Things change, and sometimes for the better.

As for Needle Park, this is what it looks like today.

* The park scene is shot 15 blocks uptown from his apartment, mostly because of the photogenic stone stairway down to the park.


Anonymous said...

This re-cut trailer for Death Wish has updated it for these modern crime-free times:

Jay Livingston said...

Great. Thanks for the link.