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Crime and Punishment
The End of Broken Windows?

Regular readers know that we think New York City’s economy and quality of life would be well-served by the elimination of superfluous regulations—but this, via Bloomberg News, is not what we had in mind:

Urinating and drinking in public would no longer be treated as crimes under a package of bills New York’s City Council will consider to ease enforcement of quality-of-life offenses that lawmakers say clog the courts and have been disproportionately enforced against minorities.

The council scheduled a Jan. 25 hearing on the proposed laws, which are supported by Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, a majority of her 50 colleagues and Police Commissioner Bill Bratton. The proposal would remove the possibility of permanent criminal records for public urination and violating park rules, mostly treating them as civil offenses, along with public drinking, littering and excessive noise.

Perhaps the City Council should be thinking about making it easier for New Yorkers to start a business before it makes it easier for them to do their business on the street.

Silliness aside, there are real risks involved with the kind of policy change the Council is considering, especially in a year when many cities around the country have seen a spike in violent crime rates. If enacted, the measures would amount to a partial rollback of “broken windows” policy, which is the idea that police departments should aggressively enforce “quality-of-life offenses,” like public urination, on the grounds that public disorder foments more serious criminal activity. There is, however, evidence that these policies have worked over the past quarter-century.

The New York Times editorial board supports the measures because they could “ease the burden of overpolicing in communities of color.” Maybe—but police reformers shouldn’t get ahead of themselves. Broken windows policies made America’s cities much more livable, and probably had a substantial impact on crime rates. If crime rates aren’t falling—or at least stable—the demand for “overpolicing” could come back with a vengeance.

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  • Jim__L

    So much for New York as a tourist destination.

  • jeburke

    Great. One of the “pleasures” of NYC subways in the 1970s and 1980s was the stench of urine in most stations. Next up: no arrests for fare beating and round-the-clock panhandling in Grand Central.

  • vb

    I think women should stage a protest. Pull up your skirts, roll down your panty hose, and squat. This law is obviously discriminatory against those lacking the necessary equipment to stand while urinating.

  • Pete

    New York values.

    Cruz was right!

  • PhonecardMike

    We have to help “people of color” and immigrants. Allowing public drinking and urination is a small price to pay to help out our fellow citizen of the world. I am surprised they don’t issue them a special bathroom and liquor pass allowing them to go anywhere they want and to get discounted liquor.


  • GRL

    I remember visiting Times Square and NYC in the 70s. I lived in NYC during the Giuliani years when DeBlasio couldn’t be elected. NYC voted for him because they obviously were nostalgic for the good old days. Dinkins, DeBlasio… get what you vote for, so live with it.

  • skeets11

    It’s pathetic that a great city like NY could not find one decent person to run for mayor, so we ended up with this socialist hack.

  • FromNJ

    I moved out of Hell’s Kitchen three years ago. I go back and visit a couple of times a year to check out the old neighborhood. Last time I was there (December) my old roommate’s girlfriend remarked how different the neighborhood had become; and not the good kind of different. More vagrancy, more garbage, more vandalism, and yes, more jerks peeing wherever they damn well please.
    Hmmm. How long has de Blas been in office?

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