While Police Commissioner Enright of New York was taking a vacation on the Caribbean Sea, a great hullabaloo was raised over the "crime wave" which was convulsing the city because of the evil ways in which the police had fallen. Figures appeared showing the prevalency of crime and the failure of the police to handle the situation. At the same time the department under fire refused to allow any inspection of its records, or even to answer questions. When Commissioner Enright returned, he published an explosive letter condemning the "muckraking" tactics of newspapers and denying the existence of a crime wave. But he did not explain the silence of his department, nor the reason for hiding its records. Naturally the public, which dearly loves sensation, was all too ready to join in the shouts of condemnation and to express its horror at the overwhelming wave of crime,--particularly the latter.
A careful consideration of what figures are available would make it appear that the so called crime wave has been greatly exaggerated for advertising purposes. The District Attorney's "analysis book," in which is entered every crime for which an indictment or complaint has been made, falls to show an increase, but rather shows a decrease, in the number of criminal acts committed in New York. Certainly there is no noticeable growth in the youthful delinquent class to be seen from an inspection of the records at the Children's Court. The fact remains, however, that the real source of evidence on the social conditions in New York is in the Police Department books which are with-held, and are said to be hopelessly inaccurate anyway. Of course if neither side will accept the truthfulness of existing figures, it is a waste of time to try and determine how matters really stand.
The safest thing for New York to do is to forget the crime wave idea, now that it has successfully aroused the slow-witted public. Its existence is not nearly so important as the fact that the police cannot handle what crime there is, which is plenty enough. Commissioner Enright has not denied the many charges of incompetence. If there has been favoritism or dishonesty in any form, this ought far more to be in the public mind than the "to be, or not to be" of a crime wave which may serve well as a means to reform, but can never be an end in itself.