Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Staying Sane in NYC? Isn't that an Oxymoron?

Shrinkwrapped has the top ten ways for New Yorkers to stay sane in 2006. My top way to improve mental health for NYC residents would be-- move out of that city, for goodness sakes! I did and have been happier ever since.


Blogger Greg Kuperberg said...

If you heap enough scorn on New York City, you might even forget that these days, Knoxville actually has a higher crime rate.

1:22 PM, December 29, 2005  
Blogger Greg Kuperberg said...

It would be one thing if Knoxville had a lower crime rate than New York City because its residents have these great options for protection. For whatever reason, New York City has a lower crime rate, including a lower murder rate. Rattling off options does not change that fact.

2:04 PM, December 29, 2005  
Blogger Yosemite Sam said...

This is a bit beside the point because there are other reasons to live or not live in a city besides the crime rate. But here are the figures from the FBI.

Knoxville MSA: 486.9/100,000 Violent Crime
NYC MSA: 458.6/100,000 Violent Crime

--The difference between the two is negligible but NYC is lower. New York has had declining crime rates for some time.

But these following are very interesting:

Nashville MSA: 872.4/100,000 Violent Crime

Memphis MSA: 1009.1/100,000 Violent Crime

So compared to the other two metro areas in Tennessee, Knoxville is relatively crime free. Memphis is one of the most violent places in the country. Worse than New Orleans or Las Vegas. My theory for this crime problem is that both Memphis and Nashville are on a major drug corridor (IH 40) and the transfer of drugs brings drug gangs which brings high levels of crime.

2:56 PM, December 29, 2005  
Blogger Greg Kuperberg said...

No matter where crime falls on the map, you can always blame it on drugs, without even checking the facts. Another explanation is just that urbanization generally comes with crime. If a lot of people live in close proximity, they will have more chances to commit crimes against each other. On average larger cities have higher crime rates than smaller cities. (Not only more crime in total, but more per person.)

So it is no surprise that Memphis and Nashville might have more crime per person than Knoxville. They are larger.

On the other hand the association between crime and urbanization is not strict cause and effect. There are some dramatic outliers along the main curve. One of these outliers is New York City. Even though it is the largest and densest city in America, it has a lower crime rate than many much smaller cities. Knoxville is just one of many examples.

7:09 PM, December 29, 2005  
Blogger Helen said...


New York was quite dangerous when I was there in the 1980's--the city was a cesspit--I was mugged, stalked, spit at and harassed on the subway where the wonderful citizens of NYC never lifted a finger to assist me or anyone else. Once Giuliani had been in office a while (I was gone at this point), the city changed. It was mainly the broken windows effect of making sure that small crimes were punished before they escalated into serious problems. Maybe if we had more Republicans running Knoxville--we could clean this town up! Seriously, I have never had a problem in Knoxville.

7:24 PM, December 29, 2005  
Blogger Greg Kuperberg said...

One difference between New York and some other cities is that the crime that it does have is more egalitarian. The solution in many cities is not to reduce crime, but simply to redline it, so that the affluent and most of the middle class never see it. You can't do that in Manhattan, which may be why New York City eventually found the moral imperative to reduce crime.

If it happened on the watch of a Republican, that's fine with me. A Republican who can swing a heavily Democratic electorate, or vice versa, just might be okay. Another question is whether it's really Guiliani who did it, or the police commissioner at the time, Bill Brattan. The two parted ways over that question.

7:46 PM, December 29, 2005  
Blogger Helen said...


All I know is the police were pitiful when I was there--my street was filled with drug dealers who harassed everyone while the police would stop my roommate--an NYU student-- if she walked out the door with an uncovered fencing foil and make her go home to put it in a case. It seems their time could have been better spent working on the real criminals which they ignored. If Guiliani inspired the police to change--great. I am glad the city has changed. There is less stranger murder there now. In Knoxville, there is little stranger crime--it is more family and crime of passion etc. which is cultural to some degree.

8:31 PM, December 29, 2005  
Blogger Yosemite Sam said...

"No matter where crime falls on the map, you can always blame it on drugs, without even checking the facts.
Another explanation is just that urbanization generally comes with crime."

Of course there is a correlation between urbanization and crime. I would have though that would be obvious. That doesn't explain why cities such as Memphis and Nashville have crime rates much higher than similarly sized cities in other areas.
For example, the crime rate in the Memphis MSA is much higher than the New Orleans MSA or the Las Vegas MSA. Las Vegas MSA has 1.3 million people, New Orleans MSA also has 1.3 million, but Memphis MSA has a little less than 1.1 million. Regardless, the causes of variations in crime rates in different cities and regions defies one simple explanation, but the trafficing of drugs along the IH 40 corridor is a probable major contributor to Memphis' woes.

10:19 PM, December 29, 2005  
Blogger Greg Kuperberg said...

This chart shows that it is at least debatable whether it was really Giuliani who inspired the police department, or something or someone else.

Are most of the murders in Knoxville "crimes of passion"? That is a plausible, albeit not proven, model of murders. It's not very likely for some other modes of crime like car theft. (Unless you're really passionate about cars.) Just like the murder rate, the total crime index was slightly lower for New York City than for Knoxville.

In any case, I think that calling New York City a den of insanity is just plain unkind after the 9/11 attacks. Jerry Falwell took it one step further, by suggesting that they actually deserved it. I can understand that not everyone likes New York. I like it a lot; my wife doesn't so much.

10:29 PM, December 29, 2005  
Blogger Greg Kuperberg said...

Yosemite Sam: It is at least valid to ask what fraction of crimes in the Memphis MSA are attributable to the black market in illegal drugs.

10:31 PM, December 29, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

yosemite sam:

fyi--knoxville is on that same "drug corridor" (I 40) as memphis and nashville. sooooo...

as for new york--i love new york. and listen, i'm a democrat. oh hell, i'm alot worse than that. but guiliani is alright in my book. sure, new york is highly disneyfied now. but if that means i can visit regularly and walk around at night (alone even!), then i gotta give the man props.

hell, he might even get my vote for president, depending who was on the other side. oh, lord--that'll really confuse the bush spies keeping my pinko file.

11:05 PM, December 29, 2005  
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