Although today New York is considered to be one of the world's safest major cities, in he 1970s it was better known as "Fear City." New York witnessed some of its darkest periods in history during the 1970s, witnessing a surge in criminal incidents throughout the decade. Gang violence, subway crime, and muggings were common, as well as larger terror attacks by extremist organizations. A reduction in the city's police force due to a financial crisis as well as increases in street gangs and extremist organizations are thought to be prime reasons for the rise in crime in the 70s.
From 1960 to 1970 the city's homicide rate more than doubled. Car thefts, burglaries, robberies, and rapes also all increased from the 60s to the 70s. The security conditions (or lack thereof) in New York was a reflection of the social dissidence present in the city during the 1970s. The criminal incidents ranged from gunshots to bomb attacks. Below are some of the extremist organizations responsible for some of the criminal activities during this time period.
The Black Liberation Army was one of the most notorious organizations whose activities made a living in New York in the 1970s seem like a nightmare. The Black Liberation Army (BLA) was an extremist black-nationalist organization which conducted militant operations in the context of fighting for the self-determination of the African-American population in the country. The Black Liberation Army was established by former members of the Black Panther Party. The Black Liberation Army was infamous for its criminal and even terrorist activities all over the country which led to the death of civilians. A notable incident occurred on May 21st, 1970 when two members of the Black Liberation Army, Anthony Bottom, and Herman Bell, gunned down two police officers in Harlem, New York.
The Armed Forces of National Liberation (commonly known as the Fuerzas Armadas de Liberacion Nacional or the acronym FALN), was another extremist organization which was involved in criminal activities in New York in the 1970s. The Armed Forces of National Liberation was responsible for about 120 bomb attacks in the country. At least five violent incidents in New York which took place in the 1970s were conducted by the Fuerzas Armadas de Liberacion Nacional, and these were mainly bombed attacks. One notable incident took place on January 24th, 1975 when a bomb exploded in New York-based Fraunces Tavern which resulted in dozens of injuries and the death of four people.
Besides these extremist organizations, New York was also home to other criminal gangs such as the Black Spades and the Westies who conducted criminal activities in the town. Although the Black Spades was started to protect residents from the rise in crime, as the organization grew members became less focused and more violent before eventually transitioning into a street gang. The Westies, on the other hand, was an Irish-American organized crime gang. Although they had previously partnered with an Italian-American gang, conflicts ensued in the 1970s between the two gangs due to territorial disputes. The Westies were known for being contract killers responsible for many of the murders around the city and were also involved in racketeering and drug trafficking.
New York experienced a fiscal crisis during the 1970s. By spring of 1975, the city had run out of money and was facing bankruptcy. This was compounded by the tax loss from the move of many of the middle-class from the city center to the suburbs. The city announced a hiring freeze, wage freeze, and large layoffs. It also raised transit prices, slashed welfare spending, and closed hospitals, fire stations, and libraries. The city was accused of widespread corruption both within the government and the police force. The hiring freeze and layoffs also affected the number of police officers employed by the city. Although crime was becoming more widespread, the NYPD was unable to hire more police officers to deal with the growing problem. The reduction in the number of police officers on patrol is thought to be one of the tipping points leading to the widespread crime throughout the city.
Why Was There So Much Crime In New York In The 1970s?
A reduction in the city's police force due to a financial crisis is thought to be a prime reason for the rise in crime in New York City in the 1970s.
Why Was There So Much Crime in New York in the 1970s?
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About the Author
Benjamin Elisha Sawe holds a Bachelor of Arts in Economics and Statistics and an MBA in Strategic Management. He is a frequent World Atlas contributor.
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