Broken Windows policing is nonsense


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Public urination is a stupid non-crime, but it’s hard to say stopping someone for it isn’t evidence-based. The evidence is right there, all over the ground!

Jokes aside, policing where and how people pee is horrible, especially in light of New York’s nonexistent public pissing infrastructure. It’s a hard town to pee legally in if you’re on the street, walking around, etc. Our glorious Starbucks infrastructuring does little to make up the deficit.


Public urination makes downtown SF reek. Yes, we do need better access to public bathrooms in San Francisco. But, no, public urination is not nothing. Public urination, and piles of feces all over San Francisco, including downtown near city hall which should be a showplace, is one of the reasons I can no longer wholeheartedly recommend San Francisco to visitors. It’s just too dirty.

What is BS, however, is routinely charging public urinators with sex crimes for being exposed while urinating. That’s crap.


I have to assume you never smelled the NYC subway in the 80s.


The practice of Broken Window policing works when put to it’s original use - stopping and preventing property crimes. Hence the name… any enforcement can be stretched to outlive it’s usefulness. Unless one has been in NYC “then and now” one should withhold judgement on the efficacy of Broken Windows, the proof is in the smelling, the looking, etc.


No, I think its original use was Giuliani’s expectation that cracking down on little things would reduce serious crime, because… reasons? I don’t know. It happens crime did go down on Giuliani’s watch. The reasons are debatable - and this paper is part of the debate.

I lived there in the Koch years and it was pretty bad.


It’s shame that the name “the broken windows fallacy” got used for something else.


What? 9/11 But 9/11 Rudy 9/11 Giuliani 9/11 swears 9/11 that 9/11 it’s 9/11 the 9/11 real 9/11 deal. 9/11 9/11 9/11


Somewhere on my tiny blog I talk about this…


As I said - the police and those in power really have no clue how to stop crime. Policing is REACTIVE. We need something PROACTIVE. Meaning it won’t be the cops curbing crime.


There’s been research done on ways of preventing crime that actually work, and they’re being implemented in other countries - there just doesn’t seem to be the will in the US to engage in evidence-based policing. They’re still doing things that we know for a fact don’t work and in fact worsen crime (e.g. “Scared Straight” programs, oddly enough). And that’s on top of US ideology getting in the way and preventing crime-prevention schemes entirely, where we’re apparently more willing to spend twice as much (or more) picking up the pieces after the crimes as it would cost to prevent them in the first place (because of “personal responsibility”). (Anything perceived as “paying people not to commit crimes” gets attacked no matter how many crimes it prevents or money it saves, for example.)


Trickle down doesn’t even prevent trickle down, huh?


I agree, the problem isn’t that people need to pee, the problem is that we’ve turned green spaces into parking lots without building new places to pee. I think we skipped a step. And calling peeing a sex crime is so wrong.


I always was suspicious that Broken Windows Policing was a bit cargo-cultish; you don’t have low crime because your neighborhood is well kept, you have low crime because the people who live there aren’t out committing crimes.

It’s kinda the logical conclusion to perception-is-reality, which is maybe why it’s such an easy sell to politicians.


You do realise that the report devotes an entire page to explaining how it is not talking about Broken Windows Policing, and does not seek to consider whether broken windows policing is valid, right? It also spends a similar section explaining how it’s not addressing stop and frisk?

The core finding of the report is that as the number of arrests for minor crimes like public urination has declined, violent crime has also declined. You can either view this as ‘hey, the police has scaled back enforcement and is now more lenient and it made no difference’. Or you could look at it as direct vindication of the broken windows theory - there’s less petty crime happening, and so violent crime has followed. Deterring petty crime has also deterred violent crime.

The study seems deeply inconclusive.


I imagine their unions and lobbyists are against that.


As a NYC resident from 84 to 97, and a resident of across the river Jersey City since then, the change is unbelievable, and I think this report fails to draw the line between real “broken windows” enforcement of small crimes, and just rousting the underclass in an unconstitutional way, which is where they ended up.

A Classic Broken Windows was cracking down on turnstile jumping. They found thousands of open warrants and weapons arresting for a real crime, not for just standing around where the cops didn’t like it. I know it’s not PC to admit it, but the even the rousting DID have the effect of getting guns off the streets, the penalty was huge and if contact with law enforcement was a real possibility you just didn’t carry. But the whole Comstat numbers thing meant to keep up your precinct arrests as crime dropped they needed to get more and more aggressive on lesser and lesser crimes rather than recognize in the goals that they were winning.


It must be hard getting to all those magnificently gentrified billion-dollar apartments and whatnot whilst dodging all that feces and other waste. Why, getting the Google Bus alone must be a nightmare!


Only through the medium of Bruce Davidson’s photographs. The subway smelled horrible even then!


Because those are the only possibilities, total gentrification for millionaires or a shit strewn, urine soaked downtown. Either you need to be allowed to piss everywhere and on anything you want with impunity, or the millionaires win. Right… :expressionless: