10 July 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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