"vacation" from academia by working as a writer and reporter.
Crime had reached previously-unheard of levels in New York (and the nation) during the years before Giuliani took office. Some of the crimes, like the Central Park jogger case, were particularly brutal and elicited much public outcry. Such crimes, along with the Crown Heights riots and the perception of then-Mayor David Dinkins as pusillminous, made Giuliani's reputation as a tough-on-crime prosecutor an easy "sell" with voters.
To be fair, crime dropped during his second term. People in even the most beleaguered neighborhoods, like the South Bronx and Brooklyn's East New York, reported that they could walk streets and take their kids to parks that were veritable combat zones just a few years earlier. Still, they insisted, there was still a considerable amount of crime, and residents of the projects still reported hearing gunfire on a regular basis.
Giuliani, naturally, took credit for the drop in crime. He touted his "toughness" and the fact that he gave the police department, in essence, a carte blanche to stop and frisk young black and Hispanic males, as reasons for the streets becoming safer. However, there were two other factors that led to a decline in crime statistics.
One was the changing demographics of the city. The vast majority of violent and property crimes are committed by 15- to 24-year old males. By the mid- to-late 1990's, their numbers were dropping, particularly in the most impoverished and crime-ridden neighborhoods. Some had "aged out" of crime, and some of them moved away from the neighborhoods and gangs that formed their milieux. Others, sadly, were in prison, or dead.
But the other, and darker reality behind the "decrease" in crime consisted of reclassification and underreporting. Technicalities were found to turn burglaries and grand larcenies into the lesser charges of robbery and theft; likewise, felony assaults became misdemeanors. Worst of all, some crimes were simply not recorded at all.
Similar practices have been occuring on college campuses, including Yale the CUNY colleges, for years. Again, in the interests of fairness, I want to point out that many students who are victims--particularly of sexual assualts--do not report what they have experienced to campus or municipal police departments. However, all you have to do is google the words "campus crime underreported" to see that hardly a month goes by without the revelation that some college or another was under-reporting the amount of crime on its campus.
Academic administrators' motives for doing so are the same as Giuliani's: The perception that a campus or a city is not safe is, arguably, even worse for its bottom line than the reality of crime itself. When I was in high school during the 1970's, as I recall, top-level students who could have attended any college or university they chose were opting not to go (or, in some cases, even apply) to Columbia. The Morningside Heights neighborhood that hosts Columbia abuts Harlem to the south and west; to the south of the Heights lay another neighborhood--Manhattan Valley-- that, like the Heights, had not yet gentrified.
Although crime may not have been as rampant in the Columbia vicinity as some believed, one couldn't deny that more students were assaulted and robbed on and around its grounds than at, say, Princeton. That, of course, gave the school that counts F. Scott Fitzgerald as an "alumnus" a recruiting advantage, if you will, over New York's most venerable university.
Apparently, the new breed of academic administrators who try to run their schools as if they were another company acquired by Bain Capital took notice of what happened to Columbia and other schools that were perceived as unsafe. Perhaps they also took notice of what was happening in New York under Giuliani. So, they did whatever they could to lessen the extent--or,at least, the perception--of crime on their campuses.
So, campus and municipal police officers were and are encouraged, or sometimes ordered, not to report or record certain crimes. Worse, students and faculty members who are victims of crime are also dissuaded from reporting their crimes through tactics ranging from dismissive comments about their experiences to outright threats. That has happened to me when I fended off an attempted sexual assault in one college in which I taught, and when a student stalked and made a death threat to me at another school. Other faculty and staff members, as well as students, have told me that they were threatened with the loss of their jobs, denial of their degrees and even physical violence if they were to report the crimes committed against them.
The truth of the matter is that, for all they talk about doing the public good,too many academic administrators couldn't care less about the safety or well-being of their students, faculty or staff members. In fact, those administrators will compromise the safety and even lives of those who attend and work in their institutions in order to promote or maintain the perception that their campuses are "safe." They rationalize their actions as being in the "greater good": The institution, which they conflate with "learning" or "education", is more important than the individual: Pour faire une omelette, il faut caisser les ouefs.
Those administrators do not want egg on their faces. As long as the surest way to keep yolk and albumen off one's nose and cheeks is to keep enrollments and cash flows up, they will have incentive to under-report campus crime. And they will continue to do exactly that.