Wednesday, May 6, 2015

"Broken windows" policing unjustified


Hal Pepinsky,, “peacemaking” at

May 6, 2015


                On the bright side, recent events in Baltimore have drawn “broken windows” policing into question.  The theory is that concerted efforts at arresting people for minor offenses and for not taking care of their property interrupt the decline of neighborhoods into more serious crime.  Yesterday, NYPD Commissioner William Bratton, defended the policy on grounds of its effectiveness in serious crime prevention ( ).  Unfortunately, that claim was left unquestioned in by the news media.

                There are eight “index” crimes that law enforcement agencies across the country are asked to report: murder/non-negligent manslaughter, aggravated assault, rape, robbery, burglary, theft, auto theft, and arson.  In 1993, NYPD adopted a data processing system called CompStat, now installed many places around the world.  Police commanders get daily printouts.  When figures first came out indicating impressive decreases in “major crimes,” Bill Chambliss and Roland Chilton found for instance that reported suicides had dramatically increased which Chambliss used to illustrate how CompStat figures were rigged from the outset (in Power, Politics, and Crime, 1999, at p.43).  Looking back at old blog posts, I found a link to a 2011 interview with former NYPD officer Adrian Schoolcraft, who recorded both demands to meet arrest targets for a variety of petty offenses, and to increase stops, and not to report index crimes of robbery and rape.  I highly recommend this introduction to the art of using computer technology to make your crime and arrest numbers, at .  It is an instance of the general principle that crime and criminality figures can more readily be explained as counters’ behavior than as representative of the behavior of those counted.  Under the CompStat regime, members of communities of color become valued as suspects, and dismissed as complainants, with no demonstrable justification.  “Broken windows” policing is counterproductive, period.  Love and peace, hal

No comments:

Post a Comment