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by Peter Moskos

January 8, 2015

Broken Windows in question

This article in the Times is worth reading. Of note: the most discretionary arrest in NYC, Dis Con, down 91 percent. Meanwhile the courts are close to empty.
“This proves to us is what we all knew as defenders: You can end broken-windows policing without ending public safety,” said Justine M. Luongo, the deputy attorney-in-charge of criminal practice for the Legal Aid Society.
I love how it took the police union and police (in)action for police officers to prove what Legal Aid lawyers have been saying along. But are they correct?

Stupid arrests are not part of Broken Windows. And they have been part of NYC policing. And by "stupid" I mean giving tickets or summonses to non-criminals using a park at night, riding the subway, riding a bike on a bike path/sidewalk, and walking through a park at night to get home (p 207 of Cop in the Hood). Now I don't think those BS things were the majority of arrests and summonses, but they did happen. And they happened because pressure from compstat and community meetings got passed down through the chain of command. And there didn't seem to be any way to stop these abuses from happening. Until now!

Any time discretionary arrests go down 90 percent without crime going up, it's noteworthy. First it was stop and frisk going down and now it is arrests. Maybe this is good. There have always been too many arrests in American policing because policing in American has for too long been defined by making arrests. And that's a shame (see p 144 of Cop in the Hood). You don't need to arrest people to use Broken Windows. Indeed, you shouldn't need to. That's been the disconnect here in NYC. This takes a major shift in police mentality. One that is hopefully happening right now. The optimist in me likes to think of this as a clean slate, where a police department and can get its priorities in order and police officers can be left to use discretion and do their job. The realist in me knows better.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This is interesting because based on my - admittedly not expert - understanding of broken windows, the idea was that neglect of physical environment and tolerance of petty crime tend to encourage general disrespect for authority and lead to further neighborhood deterioration. Tough enforcement of minor regulations is not central to the idea, but is the aspect that has been most associated with the phrase.