Giuliani resigned from his prosecutor position in January 1989 and began campaigning for mayor of New York City. Despite narrowly losing that year to Manhattan Borough President David Dinkins, who was sworn in as the city’s first black mayor, he eked out a victory in a 1993 rematch. This marked the first time a Republican had been elected to the office since 1965. “As of this moment, the expressions of cynicism—New York is not governable, New York is not manageable, New York is not worth it—all of these I declare politically incorrect,” Giuliani, who ran on a law-and-order platform, said in his inaugural speech. He would go on to easily win reelection in 1997.
Though crime was already falling in the second half of Dinkins’ tenure, that trend rapidly accelerated under Giuliani. During his eight years in office, violent crime was cut roughly in half and murders went down an astounding 67 percent. A believer in the so-called “broken windows” theory, which holds that minor signs of disorder can lead to an increase in serious infractions, Giuliani also cracked down on graffiti, public urination, X-rated theaters, sidewalk vending, subway turnstile jumping and even jaywalking. Moreover, he implemented a computer-based crime measurement system called CompStat that was later replicated by police departments nationwide.
Critics, meanwhile, accused the mayor of aggravating race relations, of valuing loyalty over competence in his subordinates, of self-promotion and of supporting questionable policing tactics. Tensions particularly heated up after four white plainclothes detectives gunned down unarmed African immigrant Amadou Diallo in March 1999. Giuliani also stirred up controversy by dismantling an affirmative action program for minority and women contractors, trimming hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers from the welfare rolls and trying to defund the Brooklyn Museum because of an exhibit he considered anti-Catholic.