April 30, 2007


Broken Windows Turns 25: And it has worked wonders on both coasts. (Charles Upton Sahm, Spring 2007, City Journal)

Twenty-five years ago, social scientist James Q. Wilson and criminologist (and Manhattan Institute senior fellow) George Kelling first introduced the phrase “Broken Windows” into the public policy lexicon. In a pathbreaking Atlantic Monthly article, Wilson and Kelling pointed out that people were likelier to vandalize a building with one broken window than a building with none, since a broken window sends the message that nobody cares, encouraging vandals to act on their destructive impulses. Similarly, they suggested, if a community tolerates quality-of-life offenses, such as drug use and prostitution, it signals to all potential lawbreakers that it doesn’t care what happens to it; more serious crime will soon result.

In the early nineties, the chief of New York City’s transit police, William Bratton, put the Broken Windows theory into practice. With Kelling as consultant, Bratton began to go after the fare evaders, aggressive panhandlers, pickpockets, and other petty (and not so petty) criminals who had turned the subway system into what he called “the transit equivalent of Dante’s Inferno.” Bratton also had cops enforce anti-loitering laws to steer the homeless away from the subways and toward social services. Homeless advocates and civil libertarians fought him every step of the way, but Bratton prevailed, bringing order to the chaotic system. Sure enough, not only did minor crime plummet; serious crime did, too, and ridership soared. In nabbing low-level offenders, Bratton also discovered that many of them were wanted for much more serious crimes.

A few years later, Mayor Rudy Giuliani chose Bratton as his top cop and charged him with leading a similar revolution above ground. The rest, as they say, is history. With Broken Windows as a key part of a broader reform of policing (including the introduction of new accountability measures and computer analysis of crime patterns), the Giuliani era saw serious crime fall 65 percent in Gotham, sparking a citywide revitalization. Bratton’s successors—Howard Safir and Bernard Kerik under Giuliani, and now Ray Kelly under Mayor Mike Bloomberg—have kept the policing innovations in place.

Bratton is now the chief of police in Los Angeles, where he has successfully employed many of the tactics that worked in New York.

Our Taliban is good.

Posted by Orrin Judd at April 30, 2007 2:37 PM

"Our Taliban is good."

Good? How many homosexuals have they stoned? How many unchaste females have been whipped? How many apostates have been beheaded? That's the Taliban way; our guys aren't Taliban; they don't measure up to the real thing when it comes to oppression.

Posted by: Mikey [TypeKey Profile Page] at April 30, 2007 3:33 PM

Common sense policing in New York City, which has a long, pre-Warren court tradition of common-sense policing, is like the Taliban? You're losing it man.

Posted by: AAA+ at April 30, 2007 3:50 PM

I didn't say theirs wasn't better.

Posted by: oj at April 30, 2007 6:32 PM

Mikey: I really don't think you wanna compare the numbered kills between the US military and the Taliban. "Our Taliban" kills way more people, and acts as if they are constantly being threatened by the invisible forces of "their Taliban". Sounds vaguely familiar to the Cold War...funny.
All Guiliani did was find ingenious ways of getting rid of undesirables; most of them are now polluting already suffering upstate New York.
The "broken windows" crock has been beaten up so many times by so many different people, that I'm not surprised to see it on a blog that appears to regularly espouse anti-Darwinism, intelligent design, the End of History thesis, the Anglosphere, and (probably the most ridiculously, but revolutionary nonetheless) the supposed conservative basis of all humor.

Posted by: Frenchy at April 30, 2007 7:34 PM

Frenchy- John Lindsay and David Dinkins ran NYC your way. If anything was proven by those administrations it was the fact that your 'broken windows crock' ain't a crock. Bring back the hookers on Park Avenue South and the windshield washers on the West Side Highway to scare the old bourgoise ladies out of their change. Those were the days. It's not all about 'root causes', dude.

Posted by: AAA+ at April 30, 2007 8:09 PM

Invisible forces? We know exactly who we're going after--anyone who doesn't conform to our moral standards.

Posted by: oj at April 30, 2007 9:21 PM

AAA+ : The subways have improved, the sex industry is not as obvious, and I'll even give Guiliani credit for helping reduce crime rates. But my point was that a large part of this success was at the expense of upstate NY and other surrounding areas (like the cesspool known as New Jersey), and I'll add that just because the more visisble parts of NYC (Manhatten) look better, doesn't necessarily mean there is less of whatever problems were there in the first place. You can make a public restroom appear immaculate, but it wouldn't change the nature of what goes on there.

Posted by: Frenchy at April 30, 2007 9:30 PM

Assuming "Frenchy" is "pro-Darwinism, anti-intelligent design, no End of History, believer in the Frenchosphere and liberal (that Stalin was such a comedian!) humor.", can we assume that her solution to the invisible but supposedly omnipresent problems of N.Y. are to run it like Airbus?

Or maybe we should just let N.Y. "evolve" without any design? Now there's a good idea.

Posted by: Randall Voth at May 1, 2007 5:03 AM

No, Frenchy thinks NYC in the 70s was Nirvana.

Posted by: oj at May 1, 2007 6:32 AM

I recall watching a program once in the late 90's about how "controversial" it was for Guiliani to fight crime in NYC and specifically to clean up Times Square. There were actually commentators complaining how the area was losing its "identity" and at one point Jimmy Breslin, in the most annoying voice possible said, "bring back the hookers!" I was just a teenager at the time and didn't have much experience encountering the Leftist mindset so I was very confused why someone preferred Times Square to be a mess.

Posted by: andrew at May 1, 2007 7:19 AM

Not only certain parts of Manhattan looked better. The very blue collar working class area of Queens where my parents lived was also cleaned up.

Decades of filth and graffiti were removed from the streets and byways. One little section under the LLRR trestle on Woodhaven Blvd across the street from an elementary school must have had six feet deep or more of disgustingness carted off.

If it went to New Jersey, that's okay by me, but I'd rather it went to Scarsdale or Chappaqua where are the rich liberals go to get away from the unpleasantness they foist on the great unwashed.

Posted by: erp [TypeKey Profile Page] at May 1, 2007 7:49 AM

"We know exactly who we're going after--anyone who doesn't conform to our moral standards."

Or does conform but insists on shooting at us anyway. I'm rather particular about that action and want it curtailed.

Posted by: Mikey [TypeKey Profile Page] at May 1, 2007 9:25 AM

"We know exactly who we're going after--anyone who doesn't conform to our moral standards."

Or does conform but insists on shooting at us anyway. I'm rather particular about that action and want it curtailed.

Posted by: Mikey [TypeKey Profile Page] at May 1, 2007 9:39 AM

Conformity requires acknowledgment of our monopoly on force.

Posted by: oj at May 1, 2007 2:23 PM