Common Sense: Broken windows
There are many solid arguments against the recent move by the New York City Council to erase 700,000 quality-of-life warrants and to downgrade future offenses from low level misdemeanors to violations punishable by a fine. One of the more important reasons, but one that is getting minimal attention, is the loss of the Police Department’s ability to run checks for outstanding warrants on those who are simply issued tickets vs. being arrested with bench appearances expected.
Consistent with the broken windows theory of policing comes the argument that strong attention to quality-of-life issues results in an overall reduction in crime and an improvement in the quality of life through the stabilization of communities that suffer from a variety of urban blights.
We do not hear much these days about neighborhood preservation and stabilization, but they were two often repeated phrases in the ‘70s and ‘80s. The misdemeanor arrests that were made for quality-of-life crimes such as urinating in public gave the police the ability to run further checks. Often unanswered warrants would show up during the check and what had begun as a seemingly minor incident resulted in a more sinister figure being put behind bars.
So I think you can assume that the city will become less appealing as we adopt new polices that most anything goes. I believe the city will also be a bit more dangerous as another tool the police used to assist them in identifying criminals is taken away.
And then, of course, Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito is suggesting that we look at the possibility of closing the Riker’s Island jail. I guess in her world you would not need prisons because very few things would be illegal. She retires from local public office at the end of next year. She has talked about running for office in her native Puerto Rico.