Sunday, July 10, 2016

The Busted Theory of ‘Broken Windows’ Still Has Media Defenders

By Josmar Trujillo

For the better part of two years, New York City tabloids have been hyping up a return to the “bad old days” in the city. Front-page stories about homeless people and street performers dirtying up the gains of a city that has become impossibly safe alluded to a turn away from the policing method that supposedly saved the city: the Broken Windows theory. This followed years of political and media support for this so-called “quality-of-life” policing style, which held that strong enforcement against low-level infractions and “disorder” lowered violent crime as well. Broken Windows enjoyed, for many years, a reputation as public safety gospel and the miracle solution to New York’s crime-ridden past.

But now a report by the New York Police Department’s inspector general’s office has undermined the premise of the city’s famed crime-fighting philosophy, widely embraced throughout the country. The report found that over an eight-year period, low-level enforcement had had no bearing on felony crimes. Media reported as if the agency’s findings were a bombshell, despite the fact that they mirrored years of academic research that long ago had said the Broken Windows theory didn’t work.

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