Imagine it’s 1975 and your visiting New York City from some small hicktown. You know nothing about the big cities and the dangers they pose. Maybe your from a large midwestern city but still nothing like what the big apple has to offer in terms of risk to life. Or better yet your a cop in New York City and because of money issues with the city, your job is at risk.
1975 was a wild time not only in NYC but in all of America. Every day it seemed like the country was just going to fall apart. serious crime at the start of 1975 was up 21.3 per cent over 1974 and wouldn’t be going down for more then 20 years. We like to think or at least we read about how out of control New York City is today but let’s quickly compare 1975 and 2020. In 2020 as of the first week of October there was 354 murders in the city. Now that is a lot. But in the first TWO months of 1975 there was 249. By the end of the year there would be 1,996. While crime has gone up let’s not loose focus that things have improved a lot.
But let’s get back to 1975. The above pamphlet was being handed out to incoming tourists by the police force. But why and what was inside the pamphlet. So if you study or were alive in the 1970’s, the city was in the middle of a bad fiscal crisis and running out of money. And so the city went about trying to cut the budget and even asked city workers to work 4 days a week. And things got messy. The teachers union wanted a 21% raise while president Gerald Ford was telling the city to drop dead. And the police were about to get hit with 11,000 in layoffs, so yeah they were not too happy. And so fear city was born. It was a way to get people to stop the cuts by putting the fear into them. Look how bad the city is now and imagine if we make cut backs, hell on earth.
So what was in the pamphlet? Well most of it was garbage or just plain lies. Let’s go over a bit of the highlights.
- Stay off the streets after 6 P.M.
- Do not walk
- Avoid public transportation. “…the city recently had to close off the rear half of each train in the evening so that the passengers could huddle together and be better protected.”
- Remain in Manhattan.
It really made the city seem like a bad place to visit, which was the vibe that it wanted to hit people with. Sure the city had some area, as it does today, that you never go into but most of the city that tourists would go into were safe.
So what happened? Well of course the city is still around so it didn’t implode on itself. The police didn’t had out the pamphlets for long, realizing it was a mistake. But the police did get cuts and the city would slowly get worse until the early 1990’s. Times slowly did improve but those dark and dirty days do linger around.
Those bad days were bad but they are not coming back. It’s not a perfect city but it’s far from 1975. You can see a copy at the Fear City pamphlet at The Museum of the City of New York. I really wanted to flip thru it but couldn’t and had to settle for just the above picture.