With two of the big civic issues this summer being the city's approach to crime and drugs—and the extent to which the city's approach to drugs takes resources from its approach to violent crime—this video with Franklin Zimring about the remarkable decline in New York crime is well worth watching. Crime in Chicago has also declined over the same timeframe that Zimring, a Berkeley and ex-U. of C. law prof, discusses. But we've had nowhere near the luck and success that New York has had.
Among other things, Zimring discusses how illegal drug use really hasn't declined at all in the city; it's just drug violence that's fallen.
First of all, cops matter. For at least a generation, the conventional wisdom in American criminal justice doubted the ability of urban police to make a significant or sustained dent in urban crime. The details on cost-effectiveness and best tactics have yet to be established, but investments in policing apparently carry at least as much promise as investments in other branches of crime control in the U.S.
Photograph: Dave Hosford (CC by 2.0)