Editorials

Bloomberg and Kelly Do It Again: Crime Drops in 2005

It’s a story that’s rewritten itself so often over the past several years, it almost passes without notice: Crime in New York City was again down for 2005, marking the 17th straight year that the city has seen a drop in its crime rate. The implications of this stunning fact reach every corner of the city; not only are the streets safer, but the ripple effect on the economy is profound. Previously forbidding neighborhoods become fertile ground for new residential development; parents across the country feel good about sending their children here for college; New York parents who previously would have fled to the cushy suburbs choose to stay, and become involved in improving the local public schools; tourists from around the world fill our hotels, restaurants, museums and Broadway theaters.

It is all the more astounding that Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Ray Kelly have achieved crime reductions while significant resources are being devoted to fighting terrorism, and when the Police Department is smaller than it was under Rudolph Giuliani. Moreover, they have been able to bring crime down without creating racial tensions.

For 2005, the number of murders—537—was at its lowest level since 1963. Eight precincts across the city showed not a single murder. (By comparison, in 1990, the number of murders was 2,245.) Also dropping in 2005 were rape, burglary, grand larceny and felony assault. Auto theft was down 12 percent from 2004, and subway crime dropped 5 percent. There were 23,948 robberies in 2005; compare that with 100,280 robberies in 1990.

Simply put, no other city in America has been able both to bring crime down so profoundly and to sustain those reduced levels over such a long period of time. Several cities, such as Boston, Houston and Philadelphia, experienced a rise in their murder rates for 2005.

New York remains by far the safest large city in the country. There was a time when no one would have believed that—when New Yorkers put up with crime as a terrible, unavoidable fact of life, if one wished to enjoy all the benefits of living here. The city is a different place today, and New Yorkers should congratulate themselves on electing the leaders who made that happen.

A Modest C.E.O.? Meet Ethan Berman

This is the time of year when the titans of American commerce are enjoying their yearly bonuses, many of which have little to do with actual performance. Some of the nation’s leading business leaders were awarded millions of dollars in shares and options in late December, an annual ritual that doesn’t exactly refute the argument that Wall Street has lost touch with Main Street.

This year, however, there is a notable exception to the perennial round of greed and indulgence on Wall Street. Ethan Berman, the founder and chief executive of a company called RiskMetrics, asked the firm’s compensation committee to award him neither a raise nor stock options. What’s more, he insisted on receiving a smaller bonus than he did last year, and that his portion of the firm’s profit-sharing program be equal to that of any other employee.

Given all of that, you almost have to figure that RiskMetrics had a bad year, and that Mr. Berman feels that he ought to pay a price for the company’s performance.

But that’s not the case. In fact, as Gretchen Morgenson noted in The New York Times, revenues for RiskMetrics grew by more than 40 percent last year. Needless to say, that’s pretty good. Who would argue if Mr. Berman insisted on taking the credit—and a huge bonus?

Instead, Mr. Berman wrote a letter to the compensation committee, complaining—yes, complaining—that he was overpaid last year and he hoped “that it does not happen again.” Yes, that’s what he wrote. There’s more: Mr. Berman said he believed that “my own performance was [not] as strong as in previous years.” So he demanded that “my discretionary bonus reflect this by an appropriate amount.”

While Mr. Berman was not pleased by his own performance, he clearly was satisfied with that of his co-workers. He asked that they receive increased bonuses.

Yes, you’re skeptical. You’re probably thinking that this was all intended by Mr. Berman to get some publicity for his company, which assesses risk for investment firms. It turns out, though, that Mr. Berman did not intend for his letter to be made public. It was sent to The Times by Arthur Levitt, the eminent former chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission. He is the head of the compensation committee at RiskMetrics and thought that Mr. Berman’s admirable sentiments ought to be better known. So do we. In this age, it’s a rare treat to single out a business leader for his modesty and sense of decency.

Clear Sailing Till Mother’s Day

It happens just once a year: The calendar shows that from now until Mother’s Day in May, the weeks are remarkably, blissfully free of holidays. Which makes the next few months a splendid holiday in themselves. Just think about it: There’s no dragging yourself off to your parents’ drafty house, no pretending to be thrilled that your children and grandchildren are coming home for a visit, no enforced gift-buying and tip-giving. You don’t have to “swing by” friends’ boring holiday parties or spend dreary weekends at their country houses (bad weather, icy roads, annoying “house rules”); you don’t even have to spend weekends at your own country house, where everything always needs fixing anyway and there’s not a decent meal to be had for miles around.

But come Mother’s Day, this five-month holiday comes to an end, and all the fun is over: After Mother’s Day comes Memorial Day, Father’s Day, the Fourth of July and Labor Day. Then in quick succession come the Jewish High Holy Days, Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas and New Year’s.

And what good do these holidays do for us? If we didn’t have them, worker productivity would be up, the G.D.P. would be higher and the dollar would be doing better against the euro. Well, yes, there is the matter of retail sales. Give us time—we’ll get back to you on that.