Andrew Neil

What London should learn from New York

What London should learn from New York
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New York's famed zero-tolerance approach to crime continues to work its magic. This year murders are on track to fall below 500 for the first time since reliable records began 44 years ago.


As of Boxing Day, 484 murders had been recorded in the city during 2007, by far the lowest number since 1963, when there were 548. Before zero tolerance was implemented, New York City murders peaked at an incredible 2,245 in 1990. In other words tough and targeted policing has cut the murder rate by almost 80%.


I appreciate you are still more likely to be murdered in New York than London; but New York's trend is moving distinctly in the right direction. Perhaps some British crime historian might like to give us London's murder rate in 1963 versus 2007; I have a feeling it will NOT be down 80%.


Crime continues to fall dramatically in New York across all categories so that, other than murder, London is now a more dangerous, crime-ridden place than New York. Who would have thought, say 30 years ago, that by the start of the 21st century, you would be much more likely to be mugged or burgled in Britain's capital than in New York (which 30 years ago seemed to be the crime capital of the world).


It isn't just the statistics which tell you New York is safer. Just walking around midtown Manhattan, even late at night last week, there was none of the threatening, drunken, yobbish behaviour which regularly scars the heart of London's West End most nights. And there were police everywhere in New York -- real police, not plastic plods.


Having lived in New York during its worst crime years, I never thought I could write these words: the Big Apple is safer than London.


All of which should raise some interesting questions for the coming London mayoral election, such as:

 Why has Mayor Ken Livingstone never pursued a proper zero-tolerance approach to crime, unlike New York's last two mayors?


Though Tory challenger Boris Johnson nominally supports such an approach, does he have a clue what it really entails?


And, though Liberal Democrat candidate Brian Paddick is a former cop, is his touchy-feely approach to crime not the exact antitheses of zero-tolerance?

  London voters should be demanding answers to all three questions in the months ahead.