Race, Ethnicity, and Policing: New and Essential Readings

By Stephen K. Rice; Michael D. White Roberts | Go to book overview

Chapter 13

Street Stops and Broken Windows Revisited
The Demography and Logic of Proactive
Policing in a Safe and Changing City

Jeffrey A. Fagan, Amanda Geller, Garth Davies, and Valerie West


I. Introduction

The role of policing in New York City's crime decline has been the subject of contentious debate for well over a decade. Violent crime reached its modern peak in New York City in 1991, followed by a 10 percent decline in 1992–93 (Fagan, Zimring, and Kim, 1998). This initial crime decline was spurred by the hiring and quick deployment in 1991 of five thousand additional officers under the Safe Streets Program (McCall, 1997; Greene, 1999; Waldeck, 2000; Karmen, 2000). During this initial decline, police tactics remained largely unchanged from the preceding years. Following the mayoral election in 1993, newly appointed police commissioner William Bratton implemented a regime of “order-maintenance policing” (OMP), which—together with other management reforms and innovations—dramatically and suddenly changed both the strategy and tactics of policing across the City. The new strategy was grounded in Broken Windows theory (Wilson and Kelling, 1982; Kelling and Cole, 1996) and focused on the connection between physical and social disorder and violence (Greene, 1999; Livingston, 1997; Spitzer, 1999; Sampson and Raudenbush, 1999; Duneier, 1999; Waldeck, 2000; Fagan and Davies, 2000; Taylor, 2001; Harcourt, 2001).

In the new policing model, police tactics, resources, and attention were redirected toward removal of visible signs of social disorder—“broken windows”—by using police resources both for vigorous enforcement of laws on minor “quality of life” offenses, while aggressively interdicting citizens in an intensive and widespread search for weapons (Kelling and Cole, 1996; Bratton and Knobler, 1998; Silverman, 1999). Tactically, policing in this era had several faces, from frequent arrests for low-level crimes such as public drinking, graffiti, and marijuana possession (Golub, Johnson, and Dunlap, 2007; Harcourt and Ludwig, 2007; Levine and Small, 2008), to aggressive street-level interdictions and searches of citizens whose behaviors signaled their potential for any of several types of crime, but most notably carrying weapons (Harcourt, 1998; Fagan and Davies, 2000; Gelman, Fagan, and Kiss, 2007). Using aggressive “stop and frisk” tactics, this brand of OMP was designed to reduce violence and

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