How to Fix Broken Windows

Monday, July 28, 2014

Mayor Bill de Blasio hosts a roundtable on police-community relations with Commissioner Bill Bratton, Reverend Al Sharpton, and others in City Hall's Blue Room, in C (Rob Bennett/Mayoral Photography Office)

A string of police abuse stemming from low-level crime arrests has opened up questions about whether Commissioner Bratton's "broken windows" is back, and whether it's working. With The New York Times editorializing against both Broken Windows and marijuana criminalization, we assess the policy with Josmar Trujillo, an organizer with New Yorkers Against Bratton, who has written that many New Yorkers were "fooled by the campaign rhetoric of...Mayor Bill de Blasio."


Josmar Trujillo

Comments [30]

This should not be about the validity of Broken Windows theory or how it compares to Stop & Frisk. This is about excessive use of force. All these situations have law enforcement using a degree of force that is not commensurate with the crime or offense.

Jul. 29 2014 11:47 AM
suzinne from bronx

My boyfriend saw a cop shove a handcuffed perp to the concrete while announcing loudly "Why did you go and do that?"? Let's get real here. I grew up with a father who was a cop. Know the mentality full well. Cops are HATERS. And if you resist or give them any trouble, and you'll pay dearly. Such was the case with Eric Garner.

Jul. 28 2014 07:56 PM
mike from l

it said in one of the daily papers that when crime was really bad, arrests were much lower than they are now. crime today is lower, with many more arrests. the inference was with lower crime, arrests should be lower. depends what end of the telescope you are looking thru. i see it as crime is down because of the increased police pressure. does anyone really think the criminal element just decided on its own to shape up? give me a break. crime is down, lets keep things that way. people who misbehave alays claim they are being picked on, profiled, anything but owning up to their poor behavior.

Jul. 28 2014 11:38 AM
oscar from ny

The cops are bored and so they think up stuff they watched on TV, movies and they think they're terminator or they think n.y is Afghanistan.. Well its not ..were at a period were we can all connect like never before and so this should make it easier to understand the logistics of being a cop..a cop ..this new commisioner has an old way of doing things so he should step down, a police boss should have control of all the cops in NY and be accountable for their actions, if you can't handle the job leave it to someone who can,..again NY is not Vietnam ..cops need to patrol and use tactic and intelligence to apprehend criminals.. Criminals not some 350 £ guy selling loosies..that's not nearly heroic but plain criminal and cowardly.. This mayor is following the agenda of others so NY with its ridiculous high rent and police stated will now even harder to live in..
PS: one thing on trains ?..WiFi..everywhere

Jul. 28 2014 11:35 AM

"New Yorkers Against Bratton" -



Jul. 28 2014 11:31 AM
Madeline from Newark,NJ

In comparrison: newark nj, where the study "broken windows" was conducted in the early 70s; leadership and police have rejected its findings and suggestions. Look were Newark & NYC are in regards to crime and quality of life.
Newark is overun by bad behavior: graffitti (not street art), full spectrum of crime (from petty to high), neglectful property owners, scared or disinterested cops; and no accountability. I am frustrated and dumbfounded that though NYC has seen results crediting broken windows, newark insists on being a skeptic.

Jul. 28 2014 11:08 AM
json from staten is

"Tired of being arrested" for low level offenses? If people are tired of being arrested, maybe they should stop committing the the SAME crime they were arrested for in the past. Should we just draw a line at low level offenses and say they're ok to do? Or would that just lead to outcry of rampant crime. Being arrested is supposed to reform people from committing at least that very same offense in the future. The easiest crime to stop is the crime that's not committed. It's one thing if someone gets falsely arrested for a crime they didn't commit, but when you are tired of being arrested for the same thing over and over you resist arrest, I think that's you problem, not a police problem. I feel very sorry for Mr. Garner, he was someone's son and brother, but he took on some amount of responsibility for what happened to him. That should be part of the conversation.

Jul. 28 2014 11:03 AM

These actions don't reduce crime, they increase crime because they are crimes, but go unreported because committed by the police. Nearly 4 million of stop-and-frisks between 2004 and 2012 were later determined to be unconstitutional. Every single one of them were illegal searches and seizures; any of those that resulted in a citizen being unjustifiably taken off the street and locked up, which every time was effected by a threat or implicit or explicit violence, should be regarded as felony kidnapping; and all of NYC's past crime stats should be retroactively adjusted to reflect this.

If a uniformed officer brazenly held up a bodega at gunpoint his office wouldn't mitigate against the crime, it would exacerbate it because, my god, that's a cop behaving like a common criminal! committing exactly the kind of crime he's there to prevent! and against the citizenry with the very power invested in him by the citizenry for their protection! That's rank betrayal and would probably be prosecuted with uncommon vigor. Yet harassment, battery, kidnapping, etc. get a pass. Why?

Being "tough on crime" is just lip service so long as criminous cops and criminous policing are unaddressed--indeed, any DA who through inaction helps to further ratify our current lawless police culture is suborning crime. Certainly any cop who fails to do his duty to enforce the law when he sees his fellow officers break it is suborning crime. Any cop whose duty is to his fellow cops before his office as a cop and to the citizens that office pledges him to protect is a gangster, not a cop. Until the NYPD starts policing itself, it's just a gang with a fat municipal contract.

Jul. 28 2014 11:03 AM
MichaelB from Morningside Heights

I want to make it clear that I don't support what the police did in any of these tragic cases, in fact I think what they did makes their own job more difficult and dangerous in the long run. They ARE out of control. Some of them anyhow.

But let's not throw the baby out with the bathwater. Let's FIX the system that has lowered the crime rate to a previously unimaginable level (remember what life was like in the '70's in NYC and the state of the city as a whole?), rather than just dumping on Bratton. These are difficult issues and tensions are high, and it is not easy to successfully train a large force in techniques required to deal appropriately with the public. There will ALWAYS be a few that don't get it right, and those will get the full media attention and cast a shadow on the entire force.

It is easy to lose perspective in the face of these horrific incidents.

Jul. 28 2014 11:03 AM
fuva from harlemworld

ALSO, Andrea from Philadelphia makes an excellent point. Cops have it twisted: They think you can't SAY what you want to them. Is there a law mandating the "yes, officer", "no, officer" response? I don't think so. They think they can brutalize people for not talking nice to them. Meanwhile, they think they can talk to you any kind of way...BRIAN AND PRODUCERS, this would be a good topic to explore.

Jul. 28 2014 10:56 AM
MichaelB from Morningside Heights

And kudos for your comments @illfg!

Jul. 28 2014 10:54 AM

'broken windows' policing *can* be a smoke screen for racism but it does not have to be. The year-end statistics should readily out whether the laws are being applied evenly or as a method to oppress minorities.

Will there be a follow-up by your staff?

Jul. 28 2014 10:53 AM
MichaelB from Morningside Heights

Where is the acknowledgement by the critics of Bratton, of the tremendous drop in the homicide rate in the city, affecting minority communities in a unequivocally beneficial manner?

Everything has a cost, and policies need to be tweaked and refined. But one thing you cannot fix is death.

True, the recent deaths by the hands of the police are tragic, but how many lives have been saved by the broken windows policies?

Where is the balance and intellectual honesty in the critic's views?

Jul. 28 2014 10:52 AM
Taher from Croton on Hudson

Compared to Westchester, NYC police wages are low.
With increased pay you might get a better qualified applicant.

Jul. 28 2014 10:51 AM
fuva from harlemworld

Perhaps putting the kibosh on SQAF has angered cops by checking their sense of power, and they're using 'broken windows' as a way to vent that frustration and go overboard.

Roid rage may also be operative here.

In any case, the long history of police aggression certainly did not increase any kind of respect for the police whatsoever in the black/latino community. Of course, it has done the exact opposite – as it would for any group. The problem here runs deep. Superficial discourse will not do.

Jul. 28 2014 10:51 AM
john from office

Wow Brian is all in on the anti cop, pooolice be bad, vein.

On the Eastern Parkway call, who else is there to stop?? It is a Black area.

Jul. 28 2014 10:49 AM
Andrea from Philadelphia

The real "crime" in these examples is disrespecting a police officer. Cops need to be instructed that there's a difference between physically resisting arrest and mouthing off or having what they consider to be a bad attitude. There should be tactics for dealing with the latter that don't involve injuring the "suspect." If cops have to restrain someone physically for their own safety, they must be taught that punishment/revenge or whatever motivates a cop to kick a man in the head when he's already down on the ground is not their job and that they'll be held accountable.

Jul. 28 2014 10:48 AM
Dorothy from Manhattan

I think that in the eyes of the police there are no minor offenses. When someone is stopped and "mouths off" to/about the cops, in the cops' eyes it's a major matter.

It's a vicious cycle of "dis-respect."

Certainly the cops need to learn a "little" (or a lot) self-control AND perspective. This stuff lately seems to be an alpha male matter.

Jul. 28 2014 10:48 AM

I was stopped by a rookie scooter cop yesterday in Bed-Stuy for rolling a cigarette. It was pretty creapy. He saw me from down the street and sped over to grill me about it. He approached me and asked me if it was K2 (what is that anyway?) so I opened my tobacco pouch and showed him. I am "black" (under the one-drop rule, but really multi-racial) and was about to get my phone out to start video-ing, but he backed off and left once he realized that I didn't have anything on me.

Jul. 28 2014 10:48 AM
Amy from Manhattan

Every time I hear about 1 one of these incidents of police violence, I hope there's a reporter undercover at the police academy finding out what future cops are actually being taught. Police dept. PR always *sounds* as if things are going to change, but the underlying attitudes don't seem to. Someone, or maybe police culture in general, is perpetuating the idea that this is OK for them to do...especially to certain populations in the city. How can we change this?

Jul. 28 2014 10:42 AM
Sheldon from Brooklyn

There is nothing wrong about enforcing low-level infractions. In fact, it is critical for effective policing. The problem is how it is enforced. There probably should be more WARNINGS, ticketing, and summonses as opposed to arrests.

The guest is unfortunately slightly naive. It's not just about crime, it's about the quality of life, especially for law-abiding citizens in low-income / communities of color.

Jul. 28 2014 10:40 AM
GS from Manhattan

"Having the utmost respect when dealing with a police officer will prevent you getting your head stomped."

WTH??? How about Having the utmost respect when dealing with a citizen ?? Who died and made Cops Kings? or we have to live in fear of them ?

Jul. 28 2014 10:39 AM
David from nyc

Don't we want our police being pro-active ?
Or sit back and just let it happen

Jul. 28 2014 10:38 AM

Well, it really matters in understanding the effect of "broken windows" that there was a major culture shift that occurred independently.

The crime rate started dropping precipitously right after the summer of 1990, fully 3 years before Giuliani was inaugurated, and continued on the same trend through his admin, without any change or variation during his admin.

Jul. 28 2014 10:37 AM

"educate young men on how to deal with authority figures" -- a/k/a get black men acclimated to a life in the criminal justice system. fall in line. drop 'em and spread 'em. I don't even know how such and education would happen, but it couldn't be more unrealistic.

Jul. 28 2014 10:37 AM
Schmulik C from Queens

ANOTHER race baiting comment from "John at the office".. We Know about the "reverse racism " disinformation campaign the new KKK is trying to create, John . This is about police behaviour and over reaction .. killing an ASTHMATIC man for being suspected of "selling loose cigarettes" ?? If we want to watch minor infractions we need COMMUNITY policing with community volunteers working alongside the police .. not the thug cops that seem to be getting more and more in number.

Jul. 28 2014 10:37 AM

@john from the office, i totally agree with your cha ching moment and the rev(BS) Al. THere is definitely a F the police mentality with some of the youth out there. Having the utmost respect when dealing with a police officer will prevent you getting your head stomped.

HOWEVER, the militarization of our police in the past 20 years has created police officers that are no longer doughnut eating fat boys. Now i regularly see very muscular steroid using police officers with little patience and through social media there are constant examples of police shooting to kill and using over whelming violence in dealing with the public.

I think both sides of this issue need change. The youth need to learn to respect police when being stopped and the police need to remember they are to protect AND serve the public. The public is NOT the enemy.

The militarization of our police needs to end.

Jul. 28 2014 10:34 AM
john from office

Broken windows would solve the problems in the housing projects, which are unlivable because of bad behavior. This guy is a parrot for some intellectual activists.

Jul. 28 2014 10:34 AM
GS from Manhattan

The fact that these cops are so brazen that they will do these acts in public is disturbing .. Thank god for cell phones

Jul. 28 2014 10:32 AM
john from office

An organizer against Bratton?? How about instead try to educate young men on how to deal with authority figures. Such nonsense.

Brian, the head stomping cop was a Black cop, so there will not be a big stink made because you need a white cop for the Cha Ching moment.

Note Rev Al has not been all over this head stomping case, because there are less greenbacks to be made.

Jul. 28 2014 10:10 AM

Leave a Comment

Email addresses are required but never displayed.

Get the WNYC Morning Brief in your inbox.
We'll send you our top 5 stories every day, plus breaking news and weather.