Tags: broken windows | crime | arrests | George Kelling | eric garner

Criminologist: Arrests Not Focus of Crackdown on Minor Crimes

By    |   Tuesday, 27 Jan 2015 07:24 AM

One of the country's leading criminologists and co-architect of the preventive "broken windows" policing strategy says that law enforcement has misapplied his approach to minor crime by using it to focus on arrests, Business Insider reported.

Criminologist George Kelling told NPR radio, "I think the problem that developed with broken windows — and one can check back in my writings, I was fearful about this — and that is, arrests became the goal of broken windows, and this is to arrest people who were committing minor offenses."

Kelling and his co-author, the late James Wilson, popularized the broken windows theory in a 1982 article in The Atlantic magazine. They made the case that big-city police should again start to enforce so-called minor "quality of life" crimes as a way of heading off more serious offenses by the same law breakers.

The approach was widely adopted over the years, including by New York City police under Bill Bratton — who implemented the policy when he was then-Mayor Rudy Giuliani's police commissioner between 1994 and 1996. Bratton is now back at his former job under current New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio.

Kelling told NPR that he and Wilson had speculated that stopping petty crimes might help stem serious crimes as well. "It started with this idea that any society has to have minimal levels of order."

Some critics say that the policy unfairly targets African-Americans and other minorities, and results in too many pointless arrests and, reports Business Insider, it's being debated again after the chokehold death of Eric Garner of New York, following his arrest for selling loose cigarettes on a Staten Island street.

"Oh, I think we were fearful of that [pointless arrests] from the very beginning," Kelling told NPR. "The history of loitering laws and vagrancy laws to arrest people is a very sad history. It was used in the post-Civil War period into the 20th century to keep many African-Americans in virtual slavery.

"So that we understood it had enormous potential for abuse. "

At the same time, he said, "the demand for order in minority communities is very, very strong" because these neighborhoods are most besieged by criminals, according to NPR.

Kelling says that the idea that broken windows is focused on getting arrests is a "really serious misconception."

Kelling told NPR that the "stop-question-and-frisk" tactic was distinct from his own "broken windows" approach. The first is based on suspicion, while his addresses actual law breaking.

When he consulted with New York City transit police in an early application of the policy, advance warning announcements were made that there would be crackdowns on subway turnstile-jumpers on a particular date.

"The whole idea was to persuade people to behave in appropriate ways," he said.

And even when those deciding not to pay for a subway ride had to be arrested, the goal was to book them in police buses parked nearby so as to "interfere with people's lives for as short a period of time as we possibly could."

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One of the country's leading criminologists and co-architect of the preventative "broken windows" policing strategy says that law enforcement has misapplied his approach to minor crime by using it to focus on arrests, Business Insider reported.
broken windows, crime, arrests, George Kelling, eric garner
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2015-24-27
Tuesday, 27 Jan 2015 07:24 AM
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