A new report by the NYPD’s Office of the Inspector General (OIG-NYPD) has exposed a key weakness of the city’s controversial Broken Windows policy.
It has not directly influenced any reduction in felony crimes.
The policing strategy, championed by the department’s Commissioner Bill Bratton, theorized that a crackdown on “quality-of-life” (QOL) offenses, such as panhandling or congregating in public spaces, would result in a decline in more serious crimes like murder and rape.
Not so, according to the IG and Department of Investigation’s joint analysis, which reviewed more than 2 million QOL summonses and misdemeanor arrests and felony crime in New York City between 2010 and 2015 and found “no evidence” to suggest a link between the clampdown and a drop in serious crime rates.
In fact, an examination of the past six years showed there has been a dramatic decline in QOL arrests and summonses by the NYPD, but no corresponding spike in felony offenses, as one would expect.
Officials cautioned the report was not meant to broadly condemn the policing of minor crimes in all instances, but “given the costs of summons and misdemeanor arrest activity, the lack of a demonstrable direct link suggests that NYPD needs to carefully evaluate how quality-of-life summonses and misdemeanor arrests fit into its overall strategy for disorder reduction and crime control,” the report read.
The OIG-NYPD was introduced in August 2013 as a watchdog task force responsible for the independent investigation, review and auditing of the NYPD. The agency is made up of over 40 investigators, attorneys, policy and data analysts, auditors, community outreach personnel and support staff.
Commissioner Bratton immediately blasted the findings.
“That report is basically of no value to the NYPD. It is deeply flawed,” Bratton said, per CBS New York. “I think I have a lot more expertise than the IG, and in this case the Department of Investigation, which I fail to see what role they have in this incidence at all.”
Mayor Bill de Blasio, who has also supported the tactic, stood by Bratton Thursday.
“If a governmental entity puts out a report, we are going to look at it. But I agree with the commissioner. The core findings, we don’t see merit in,” de Blasio said.
The DOI issued its own statement in response to the criticism.
“This City has an independent DOI expressly to oversee the NYPD and all City agencies whose findings cannot be quieted by City officials who do not agree with them.”
The 1990s-born policy has been slammed by social justice advocates, who argue the practice disproportionately targets Black and Hispanic youths in the city and has had devastating consequences for those communities. Record numbers of arrests for low-level drug offenses, like marijuana possession, have led to loss of employment, access to public housing and other benefits and quality education.
The claims were backed by the New York Civil Liberties Union, which estimated nearly 81 percent of the 7.3 million people hit with summonses between 2001 and 2013 were Black and Hispanic.
And an October 2014 study by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice found that 25 percent of the misdemeanor arrests in the last 30 years have been for minor drug violations. One million of the arrests were marijuana related.
In addition, the misdemeanor arrest rates for African-Americans and Hispanics nearly doubled from 1990 to 2010. The proportion of African-Americans arrested jumped from 3.6 percent in 1990 to a peak of 7.5 percent in 2010. The increase was less dramatic but no less concerning for Hispanics, who started at 2.5 percent in 1990 and topped off at 4.7 percent in 2010.