Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Broken Windows or Better Management?

I agree with this article From Rebuilding Space that public safety is the number one priority facing DC. However, his thesis that “Broken Windows” policing is the solution is a stretch.

Social economists have disputed the effects of William Bratton and "Broken Windows" style policing. I have not had the time to look at all the data on NYC, or DC for that matter, but some feel that those neighborhoods that had the highest levels of crime in the 80s crack epidemic, were also the ones that saw reduce crime in the late 90s. Areas of a city cannot sustain a high level of crime. It ebbs and flows, like housing markets. Some even contend that crime rates would have been reduced regardless of policing strategy. But enough about NY, lets talk about DC.

o The murder in Georgetown last week could have been prevented if properly trained cops had followed the lead given by the theft victim.

o The police force has a limited number of personnel and financial resources.

o The communications system is broken. MPD is non-responsive, if not dismissive of calls to 311 or 911. See article in Washington City Paper.

o Many cops may be under-trained, burnt out, or hired under the Barry Administration that may not have properly vetted its officers.

o The DC court system is over-burdened and sentences rarely stick.

In order to utilize a broken windows model the PD and the courts must be ready and willing to ramp up efforts to arrest and convict many more people. Every graffiti artist, 14 year old kid beating up women on Randolph place, every person sipping 40ozers on NCap. Broken Windows is also notorious for reducing civil liberties and leading to some isolated police violence claims against NYPD.

I don’t think this is even remotely possible. Perhaps we should look at a real management shake-up.

Work to reduce corruption. Put in accounting systems to make sure gasoline, cruisers and other equipment is being misused.

Do a bottom-up personnel review, get rid of underachievers, and those who are no longer fit to police the city. Get good cops onto the street, and give commanders a squad that they can work with. Give them the tools they need to police. Keep cops in the neighborhoods, and spend more time community policing.

Finally, implement an effective, combined 911/311 dispatch system that will get the calls of victims to the beat cops. The citizens need to know that their calls are being answered. They need to know that the MPD is accountable, and they need to begin to have trust and respect for DC Cops.I completely agree with this point “In a majority minority city like DC, I think the political fallout of highly increased enforcement "against" African-Americans in particular would be significant, and no politician in the city would be willing to take such heat.” None of our mayoral candidates will take a stand on what they will do to police our city, without disenfranchising African-Americans. This is a town that has said that Tony Williams “isn’t black enough”. What would they do if there were a crime crackdown in predominantly black neighborhoods?


Richard Layman said...

I don't see how any of this is a rebuttal, merely the foundation of solid policing, which is Broken Windows-based.

On a building that I tried to get designated so it wouldn't be torn down, the building permit from the 1910s (I don't remember the exact date) included an investigation by the beat cop, because stuff was done without permits, and the City Architect needed ground level data.

That's how it was.

I am not yet fully schooled in data analysis, but I've read a bunch of the economist studies that are anti-Broken Windows, and I haven't been impressed.

My own micro-level "experiments" at the neighborhood level have shown a difference.

Part of this has to do with the research method, and what large studies can show and what they can't show. I think that Randy Stoecker's book on conducting social research has some important insights into this problem. See Research Methods for Community Change: A Project-Based Approach.

Here's stuff from last year (and the first entry incorporates stuff I wrote in 2003) about Broken Windows:

Urban Health, Nasty Cities, Broken Windows, and Community Efficacy; More confirmation of the Broken Windows thesis and Detroit neighborhood demonstrates that "Broken windows" theory + "community efficacy" = success.

The stuff in the first entry about Herzberg's Motivation-Hygeine Theory is relevant to what you write, at least imo.

A strong foundation, a structure is necessary, and that's how I apply Herzberg to this theory.

PalacePool said...

Agreed, not really a rebuttal. The main point of my post was that broken windows takes commitment from the police and the courts. That commitment has to be instilled by the Chief, and buttressed by the courts.

Hopefully the MPD will take this any positive approach toward good policing, whether broken windows or not.

Anonymous said...

Where did you find it? Interesting read » »