"Of Squeegee Men & 'Broken Windows'"

Ordway P. Burden’s article “Of Squeegee Men & ‘broken windows’” discusses the New York City Police Department’s crackdown on minor criminal offenses as a product of the Broken Windows theory of policing, and this reform’s relation to the prevailing police attitudes.

Ordway P. Burden’s article “Of Squeegee Men & ‘broken windows’” in the February 14, 1994 issue of Law Enforcement News addresses a perceived relationship between New York City authorities’ tolerance of minor criminal offenses and the city’s deteriorating quality of life. For this reason, according to Burden, Broken Windows theory, as formulated by James Q. Wilson and George L. Kelling, was becoming increasingly popular in the New York City Police Department (NYPD) under Commissioner William Bratton. In contrast to the NYPD’s then–current policing approach, which saw these “quality-of-life” infractions as outside of the police’s scope of responsibility, Broken Windows posits that the police must aggressively crack down on these violations, which produce an atmosphere of disorder and fear that often leads to a correlative increase in more serious crime. The article further indicates that this present indifference toward minor violations is part of a more widespread understanding of the police’s role; one survey found that few of the nation’s police departments who responded train their officers to “[deal] specifically with the homeless population.” Additionally, although Bratton’s previous attempt to incorporate these ideas as head of the New York Transit Police led to a serious decline in the city’s subway crime figures, the article states that there is no evidence to suggest that this approach will work in a different and much larger context.

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Buell Center (aes2344)