Underside of New York
On the surface, New York is America’s most exciting and populous city; a hub for all forms of businesses, cultural artifacts, fashion, distinct personalities and modern infrastructural facilities among other exemplary features. More than 18 million people reside in this metropolitan, where they live, work and raise their families in the city’s boroughs. The fact that the status of New York City in 1970s is significantly different from the metropolis known today does not imply that the previous social evils do not exist. On the underside of the evidently exciting city, an intricate syndicate of drug trafficking, high crime and poverty presents a contrary picture. The paper explores and explains the underside of New York in terms of crime, drug use and poverty.
Crime rate is relatively high in New York compared to other towns in the US except a few, such as Jersey City.
Table 1: Crime Rate in New York Compared To Other Cities
|City||Crime Rate (per 100,000 population)|
|West New York:||192.2|
Adapted from City-Data.com
One of the reasons associated with the increased crime rate in New York City is due to the fact that crime commenced early considering that most of the original mob families controlled their businesses largely from New York. Crime is described as any form of behavior that is not legal. The primary causes of rampant criminal activities in the City include racial discrimination, poverty and social unfairness. Violent and property crimes are the most common forms in New York. Violent crimes are the worst forms of crimes that can be committed and they include robbery, rape, homicide and aggravated assault. According to the 2012 statistics by City-data.com, (Figure 1) the level of crime by type includes auto thefts (4%), thefts (59%), robberies (10%) other (1%), burglaries (10%) and assaults (16%).
Figure 1: Crimes per Type In 2012
Adapted from http://www.city-data.com/crime/crime-New-York-New-York.html
The level of crime in New York City has been on the decline since 1990. According to Oppel, R., (2011), the number of homicides reported in 2013 was 333, the lowest number since 1963 when the reliable statistics on crime were ever recorded. The infestation of New York with drugs, such as crack cocaine and heroin increases the crime rate. For instance, the high rate of crime in the 1980s and 1990s is related to the increased use of crack in the city (Johnson, B.D., Golub, A. & Dunlap, E., 2006). Gotham experienced unprecedented fiscal crisis in 1975 as well as significant chaos after a 25-hour long power blackout. Although on the decline, murders are a rampant form of crime in the City’s underside. Its history is characterized by high profile murders. For instance, the murder of Helen Jewett, a New York City prostitute in the 1830s as well as that of Son of Sam killings committed by an American serial killer targeting Blacks generated high media coverage (Cohen, P.C., 1993 and Fox, J. & Levin, J., 1998). Fraud is also another rampant form of crime in Gotham. The most prominent form of fraud is the 2007-2010 Wall Street mortgage crisis that cost the taxpayers billions of financial resources during the bailout (Kuttner, R., 2010). The fraud case made the Wall Street in New York City to be identified as one of the most dangerous neighborhoods; it almost destabilized the global financial systems. Gang violence is still a prominent crime phenomenon. The most notorious mobsters of the 20th century based in New York City include Lucky Luciano, Arnold Rothstein and Meyer Lansky (Sterbenz, C., 2013).
Reasons for the Decline in Crime Rates in New York City
Although there is no specific factor that can be used to explain the decline of crime rates, there are various factors that appear to be correlated with crime reductions over the past decade (Kelling, G.L., 2000). Such factors include committed city political administration and renewed judicial service that is fully committed towards elimination of crime, improved economic conditions that increases job opportunities and higher investing in security organs, changes in the social conditions whereby many residents embraced law and order, reduction in racial profiling and decline in corruption among the law enforcers. The adoption of Compstat, broken widows policing that was applied by the New York City police department (NYPD) in the 1990s has also served a milestone in the reduction of crime in the city. The decline was achieved despite the fact that political scientists, criminologists and sociologists had predicted that the rates would increase due to the changes in the demographic trends that added more young people in the population.
Despite the fact that New York is one of the richest cities in the world, food poverty affects a high number of residents. For instance, an estimated 2.6 million residents in New York City experience a lot of difficulties in feeding themselves and their families (Oh, I., 2014). According to new report conducted by the Center for Economic Opportunity, 45.6% of New Yorkers barely afford the basic necessities (CEO Poverty Measure, 2014). The report also found out that the poverty rates in New York City increased to 20.9% in 2010 from 19.0% in 2008 although it has remained unchanged from 2011 onwards (21.4%). Poverty also affects the working population. The report found out that the poverty rate for adults that have attained the working age i.e. 18-64 years and working fulltime increased by 1.8%. Poor residents of the New York City, especially majority of the immigrant population face significant housing challenges i.e. live in tenement housing or ghettos. Majority of those highly affected by poverty are women, children, disabled people, working poor and seniors. Low to moderate income earners continue to experience financial pressures caused by low wages, health care issues and housing costs (DaCosta, N. R., & Sribnick, E.G., 2013). This, coupled with the increased food prices has compromised their ability to buy food.
Additionally, most poor New Yorkers live in low-income neighborhoods that have limited access to nutritious food. This makes it hard for them to maintain healthy lifestyles, leading to high concentration of diet-related conditions, such as hypertension and diabetes. According to CEO Poverty Measure (2014) report, poverty increase is more pronounced among Asians and non-citizens. For instance, in 2008, the poverty rate for Asians and Hispanics was almost equal i.e. 22.4% and 23.5% respectively. However, this rate changed by the end of 2012 whereby the poverty levels among Asians was found to be 3% higher than that of Hispanics.
Figure 2: CEO poverty Rates by Race/Ethnicity
According to Barr, R.G. (2001), poverty in New York City is characterized by living off less than $11,500 annually individually and $23 021 for a family. Bronx has the highest poverty rates with close to 30% of the residents living below the federal poverty rate (Figure 3).
Figure 3: Comparison of the Rates of Poverty in Various Counties within New York
Poverty always breeds crime; desperate residents would always resort to crime as a source of income especially when the factory wages do not suffice. Desperate youths roam the streets and eventually group to form terror gangs that wage suffering on the residents.
Illicit drug use leads to various health problems, such as unintentional death, sexually transmitted diseases, injuries, depression and hypertension. According to New York (2010) report on illicit drug use, drugs such as cocaine cause cardiovascular diseases. Drug use is a common phenomenon in the US and more prevalent in urban areas such as New York City. Although the city looks exciting on the surface, the underside is embroiled in drug trafficking, use and addiction. The rich market of more than 18 million potential clients has encouraged the drug dealers to penetrate through the formation of representative ethnic organizations that take advantage of their ethnic cronies to conceal their illegal deals. These organizations take advantage of the fact that New York has played homage to a high number of immigrants from all over the globe, making their detection difficult because traffickers from any ethnic background can easily blend in. According to Narconon International (2014), the abundance of regions rich in transportation and infrastructural facilities benefits the drug traffickers as they easily conceal their cargo. Furthermore, drug dealers are resorting into ingenious ways of concealing drug cargo such as use of sport equipments, toys, impregnating into plastic goods and encasing them in condoms among other methods. The possibility of transporting drugs in New York City is also enhanced due to the new direct flight from Nigeria to JFK International Airport (Zimring, F. E., 2012). The abundance of financial institutions in the US makes it possible for drug traffickers to transport these drugs out of the country easily. Some of the drugs that are readily abused in New York include marijuana, cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine, club drugs e.g. Ecstasy (MDMA) and prescription drugs (Narconon International 2014). According to Celona, L. and Prendergast, D., (2014), heroin is abused at a higher level in upstate New York City compared to other drugs i.e. hospital admissions related to heroin abuse are higher compared to other drugs. This has led to the plunging in the price of the drug and soaring of its potency.
One of the evidences that the drug is still being abused in the city’s back alleys is the recent death of actor Philip Seymour as a result of an overdose. The new information released by Federal Drug Enforcement Administration shows Heroin use is increasing as dealers flood to satisfy the increased demand from their diversified clientele of New Yorkers (Celona, L. and Prendergast, D., 2014). The quantity of heroin nabbed by the DEA has increased to 144 kg in 2013 from 86kg in 2009. The increased supply of heroin in the market is blamed on the decreasing supply of prescription painkillers; the void that the heroin dealers exploit to reach out to those that cannot access painkillers. Its rampant use also results from its addictive nature. The Drug Enforcement Administration avers most heroin in the City originates from Mexico through the porous Mexican border. It is then smuggled into the country through any means possible such as prosthetic legs or guinea pigs. The current price of heroin is also lower compared to the price statistics of the earlier decade. Celona, L. and Prendergast, D., (2014) indicate that, one kilogram of the drug is currently sold between $50,000 and $60,000 while the same quantity could have been sold approximately $200,000 a decade ago. The quantity of drug impounded while trying to be smuggled at the border has also increased to 2 091 kilograms in 2012 from 558.8 kilograms in 2008.
Marijuana is the most popular drug among 18-25 year olds i.e. 30% (New York, 2010). It is also used by 12% of the New York residents annually. Cocaine is another rampantly abused drug in New York City just as in much of the US. Most of it is old in form of crack cocaine in the poor neighborhoods of the city (Feigelson, E. B., & Cadden, J. J.,1974). The widely used forms of Marijuana are Mexican marijuana that is smuggled in from the western border or potent hydroponic marijuana that is outsourced from Canada. Indoor marijuana, grown in gut houses is also commonly used in the city. The abuse of prescription drugs has rapidly increased especially in teens and young adults who assume that the legitimate manufactures have made them safe for abuse. Although its use has been growing in the last couple of years, the use methamphetamine poses a relatively lower challenge to the authorities in New York City compared to the rest of US. As long as drug addicts, demand and unscrupulous drug lords exist in the city, there will always be drug abuse. In addition to interdicting all drug shipments, the law enforcers should continue to ensure that addicts are well rehabilitated and effective drug education carried out to ensure that young people do not succumb to the temptation of drug abuse (Johnson, B.D., Golub, A. & Dunlap, E., 2006).
Other factors that characterize the underside of New York City include diseases and poor waste management (Lankevich, G.L., 1998). The massive overcrowding leads to wide spread of diseases, such as yellow fever and cholera; epidemics that sweep the slums on a regular basis. Although sewers are improving, the disposal of public waste is increasingly a challenge. Some residents use private sewer pools that may overflow during the rainy season. Old sewage pipes also empty waste water directly into rivers that are sometimes consumed by the city residents
Some of the features of the underside of New York City include crime, drug use, poverty, diseases and poor waste management. Although the situation has significantly improved compared to that of the 1970s, these societal evils are still existent only that the players have changed their tactics and made them suitable for concealing their illegalities from law enforcers. A wide range of measures have been applied in curbing these challenges, such as elimination of social conditions that promote them, improving the capability of the criminal justice system detect, apprehend, judge and rehabilitate criminals back to the community, creating more job opportunities for the jobless residents and improving sanitation among other factors.
Barr, R. G., 2001. Neighbourhood poverty and the resurgence of tuberculosis in New York
City, 1984-1992. American Journal of Public Health, 91, 9, 2001.
Celona, L. and Prendergast, D., 2014. “Hoffman’s OD exposes rampant heroin use
in NYC.” New York Times. Available at: <http://nypost.com/2014/04/07/heroin-use-
explodes-in-new-york-city/> (April 7, 2014)
CEO Poverty Measure, 2014. An Annual Report from the Office of the Mayor. NYC Office
of the Mayor. Available at:
> (April 2005-2012)
Crime Rates in New York by Year., 2014. City-Data.com. 18 May 2014. Retrieved from http://www.city-data.com/crime/crime-New-York-New-York.html
Cohen, P.C.1993. The Mystery of Helen Jewett: Romantic Fiction and the Eroticization of
Violence. 17 Legal Studies Forum 2.
DaCosta, N. R., & Sribnick, E.G., 2013. The poor among us: A history of family poverty
and homelessness in New York City.
Feigelson, E. B., & Cadden, J. J., 1974. Changing patterns of drug abuse in New York City.
The American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse, 1, 3, 371-8.
Fox, J. & Levin, J., 1998. “Multiple Homicide: Patterns of Serial Killers and Mass Murder”.
Crime and Justice 23: 407–455.
Johnson, B.D., Golub, A. & Dunlap, E., 2006. “The Rise and Decline of Hard Drugs, Drug
Markets, and Violence in Inner-City New York”. In Blumstein, Alfred; Wallman,
Joel. The Crime Drop in America, Cambridge University Press.
Kelling, G.L., 2000. Why Did People Stop Committing Crimes? An Essay About
Criminology and Ideology. Fordham Urban Law Journal, Vol. 28, Issue 2 Article 4.
Kuttner, R., 2010. “Zillions for Wall Street, Zippo for Barack’s Old Neighborhood”.
Huffington Post. Available at: <http://www.huffingtonpost.com/robert-
Lankevich, G.L., 1998. American Metropolis: A History of New York City. NYU Press.