Over the last two decades, New York City has witnessed historic drops in crime. Numerous explanations for this crime decline have been discussed, and the New York City Police Department (NYPD) has been central to that debate, most notably because of the adoption of order maintenance policing and the implementation of Compstat. While those developments in the early 1990s are clearly important for understanding the potential role of the NYPD in the crime decline, those changes did not occur in a vacuum. This paper adopts an historical framework that places the role of the NYPD in the crime decline in the larger context of the department's history, culture, and key events over a nearly 40-year span. This perspective suggests that many of the crime control strategies implemented by the NYPD over that time have been driven by internal and external crises, and that these strategies have also produced unintended consequences. With the historical analysis as a backdrop, the paper considers the ongoing debate over stop, question and frisk practices, and their disproportionate impact on minority residents, as the next potential crisis for the NYPD. The paper concludes with a discussion of the historical framework as a foundation for initiating a comparative dialog across law enforcement agencies regarding crime control strategies, their impact, and their consequences. Abstract published by arrangement with Taylor and Francis.