On Monday, New York City Mayor Eric Adams shared a video on Twitter of a woman being robbed at gunpoint (while holding her baby). Adams is on a mission to not only justify his stance of gun laws, but his reasons for bringing back a style of policing that’s been rebuked by many New Yorkers and academics.
Adams and company, particularly the New York Police Department, have had plenty of fodder to feed the media and shepherd along the perception that more cops are needed to keep the streets and the subways in control.
Other high profile incidents include a 38-year-old homeless man fatally stabbing a 51-year-old man at Penn Station, a 46-year-old man injured from a slash in a drug deal gone wrong (in the subway) and two separate incidents at train stations on the Upper West Side, all of which have (certain) city dwellers on edge.
When speaking to the New York City Council last week, Police Benevolent Association President Pat Lynch said that criticism of their tactics is coming from people who already live comfortably under their protection.
Lynch said: “New Yorkers are getting shot and police officers are out on the street, all day and all night, trying to stop the bloodshed. Where are these City Council members?” said Lynch. “Safe at home, hiding behind their screens and dreaming up new ways to give criminals a free pass. It won’t get better unless New Yorkers shame the politicians into doing their job.”
Two weekends ago, almost 29 people were shot around the city, which was more than double the number of the previous weekend. According to the NYPD, there were other incidents where shots were fired, but no one was hit.
The city’s response? Reinforcing “quality of life” arrests including public drinking and dice games that could lead to shootings. If this sounds familiar to some New Yorkers of a certain age, quality of life is a substitute for the “broken windows” style of policing that disproportionately affected the Black and Brown communities in the 1990s.
Adams’, while Democrat in name, has evoked the name of former mayor and Donald Trump-affiliate Rudolph Giuliani. He, along with then police commissioner Bill Bratton, were credited with lowering the city’s crime rate in an era where those on both political spectrums had to appear “tough on crime” out of fear of looking weak publicly.
“Broken Windows” policing theory goes back to a 1982 article published in The Atlantic under the title mentioned above, in which George L. Kelling and James Q. Wilson intimate that social disorder, such as graffiti and unrepaired windows, would stop if the police were tougher on low-level crimes and misdemeanors. If not, law-abiding members of the community would leave, and it would lead to an increase in crimes in the neighborhood.
Anti-police brutality activist Josmar Trujillo lived the Broken Windows experience. He thought that it was only a matter of time before a mayor with a policeman’s mind would get back to basics.
“As someone who has been organizing against the discredited and racist philosophy of the Broken Window theory, I can say it is not surprising to see Mayor Adams—who came up the ranks of the police department during some of its worst abuses under Rudy Giuliani and Broken Windows godfather Bill Bratton—insist we harass communities of color for non-violent, petty offenses,” Trujillo said. “He is blindly loyal to the theory but abuses his power by using his platform to suggest this harassment will reduce more serious crimes. That has always been the lie of Broken Windows policing, and it will be poor Black and Hispanic New Yorkers that will pay the price.”
Jennvine Wong, staff attorney with the Cop Accountability Project at The Legal Aid Society, released the following statement in response to Mayor Eric Adams and the New York City Police Department’s announcement that it would, in effect, reinstate broken-windows policing: “Let’s be clear: this plan reinstates broken-windows policing, and it will undoubtedly send more Black and Latinx New Yorkers to Rikers Island, a facility that is wholly incapable of caring for the people in its custody,” stated Wong. “Broken-windows policing has long been discredited for furthering mistrust between the police and the communities we serve, and this rebranded version will yield those same results, with the same disparate enforcement.”
According to an analysis of police data released this week by The Legal Aid Society, 91% of the ‘broken window’ arrests (1,524 overall) in 2021 were disproportionately from Black, Brown and other non-white communities.
Communities United for Police Reform spokesperson Sala Cyril said, in a statement sent to the AmNews, that the laws punish the poor for being poor and make them poorer through other means.
“Broken windows policing does not result in more safety for our communities; instead, it criminalizes low-income New Yorkers and communities of color, pushing people into the carceral system for non-violent, minor infractions, which has devastating impacts on individual lives and their families and destabilizes entire communities,” Cyril said. “Overly aggressive enforcement of low-level offenses (aka broken windows policing) also far too often escalates situations between police and community members, which can have brutal and sometimes even fatal consequences for New Yorkers impacted, as we saw with the NYPD killing of Eric Garner.
“No New Yorker should ever spend a night in jail for falling asleep on a bench or carrying an open container,” Cyril continued. “No young person should be pushed into the criminal legal system for jumping a turnstile or riding a bike on the sidewalk. What hurts our communities is not people living their lives, but aggressive and abusive policing that fails to make us safer.”