Are The Bad Old Days Of Crime Back?

Thomas F Campenni
6 min readJun 21, 2021

We hear that the crime is out of control, especially in U.S. cities and that we are back in bad old days of the 1970s, 1980s, and early 1990s. It is not that bad…yet.

I lived and worked in New York City during that period. At times it felt as though we lived in a war zone. For most of that period, I resided in Queens and my office was in mid-town Manhattan. One evening on my commute home, I was standing on a packed subway car reading, one guy came pushing his way through the crowd with a gun at his side. Another fellow was sort of chasing him holding another gun. Soon after, I began to drive to work.

I was fortunate that I was able to insulate myself from that chaotic crime scene. That is only because I could afford to pay for a garage spot in mid-town. Most people were not that lucky. During much of that period, New York City (like other cities) were being run by pols who were more interested in pandering for votes than seeing to citizen safety.

Ordinary uniformed officers during that period were not making drug or prostitution arrests. Graffiti was called art in an attempt to make citizens feel better. Open drug use including addicts shooting up on park benches was tolerated. Public urination and defecation were accepted on our streets. I cannot tell you how many times my car windows were broken by a junkie. Their aim would be to rip out my radio or go through the glove box looking to score for a fix. I had two locked cars stolen from my home driveway.

Someone broke into my in-law’s apartment by the fire escape as my wife was unlocking the front door. Luckily, she only experienced a push and nothing worse. My father-in-law was pistol whipped in his pharmacy one afternoon by thugs looking for drugs.

I attended Fordham University at Lincoln Center which is on 9th Avenue and 60th Street. My apartment was on 9th Avenue and 18th Street. I took my classes at night since I worked during the day. While taking the bus home, I passed the time by counting the “ladies of the evening” as they plied their wares as the bus rolled down the avenue.

It was a dystopian landscape right out of the movies of the period such as John Carpenter’s “Escape From New York.” Perhaps much of it was fueled by the great white American escape to the suburbs. When Co-op City opened in the northern Bronx on the site of an old amusement park, entire buildings on the Grand Concourse became empty of their mostly white residents. They were…

Thomas F Campenni

Currently lives in Stuart Florida and former City Commissioner. His career has been as a commercial real estate owner, broker and manger in New York City.