Suggesting New York City could tutor Utah neighborhoods on the science of reducing crime sounds as absurd as Salt Lake City cab drivers schooling Big Apple counterparts in the art of honking horns. But it isn't.
Surprisingly, New York boasts more favorable crime trends than Salt Lake. Recognizing that, local officials are willing to swallow their pride and look to Gotham for guidance. That's good thinking.Since Rudolph Giuliani has been mayor, crimes of all types in New York have declined significantly. For example, murders dropped from 2,000 to 780 per year. The murder rate in Salt Lake City has, conversely, been on the rapid rise. Crime has been reduced more in New York than any city in the nation, large or small. If principles and programs work there with such great results, let's use them here.
Utah community and religious leaders recently gathered to record a two-hour Governor's Conference for Community Leaders: Safe Neighborhoods. The program will be broadcast as part of a 30-site teleconference on crime reduction.
Besides discussions at individual conference sites, the broadcast features comments by Giuliani, Gov. Mike Leavitt and his wife, Jacalyn, law-enforcement officials and others.
Giuliani's secret, which Salt Lake and other cities in Utah should follow, is to stamp out the smallest offenses, then the larger ones follow. When New York cracked down on petty theft, aggressive panhandling and property crimes, it sent a message that larger crimes would not be tolerated either.
Those changes infused the populace with confidence it could control its own destiny and the courage to take bigger problems. Part of that effort included an increased sense of "ownership" brought about by community involvement. Police precinct councils and town meetings were set up to foster interaction. Community watch programs were encouraged, and responsibility and accountability became paramount.
Some of those same things are being done in Salt Lake City and elsewhere locally. There is room for more of the same. There's no shame in Utah looking toward New York City and elsewhere for crime-fighting ideas that work. The state needs all the help it can get to preserve a way of life many Easterners only dream of.