Mar 8 2017

NY Daily News: Broken Windows ‘Works,’ and if It Hurts Immigrants–‘Too Bad’

Daily News: Broken Windows Works and Don't Undo It

When President Donald Trump rails against the mainstream media, it might not make much sense to come to their defense. For FAIR readers, the problems with media powerhouses like CNN and the New York Times are well-documented, and preceded any of Trump’s Twitter storms.

Still, that hasn’t stopped some from rallying outside the offices of media behemoths like the Times, and even Fox News, to show their support for corporate media in the face of Trump’s attacks. This, even as the Times executive editor has gleefully pointed out that Trump has been the best thing to happen to the paper, pushing its subscription numbers through the roof.

Unfortunately, New York–area newspapers haven’t been kind enough to return the love of demonstrators, whose defense of Trump’s media enemies is grounded in opposition to Trump and his ideas. Take the New York Daily News editorial board, which recently (3/6/17) professed its affection instead for “Broken Windows,” a controversial policing strategy that has been at the heart of a national debate around policing (, 7/3/16)—and which is now being cited as a backdoor channel for deportations, even in liberal cities like the Big Apple (, 3/1/17).

This isn’t the first time the editorial board has jumped to defend aggressive policing tactics. The News has, to its credit, offered apologies (8/8/16) for being wrong in the past for its gloomy predictions (“City at Risk,” 8/13/13) that a 2013 federal ruling against the NYPD over its Stop and Frisk program would lead the city “back toward the ravages of lawlessness and bloodshed.” Apparently not the type of news organization to take an error as an opportunity to reflect and approach public policy more carefully, the editorial board’s latest position makes a claim it can’t back up: “Broken Windows Works and Don’t Undo It.”

No consensus exists over whether Broken Windows does, in fact, work. The theory, which advocates the aggressive policing of low-level, so-called “quality-of-life” offenses and signs of disorder as a means to keep serious crime down, has been debated for years. Studies published claiming to prove its efficiency have been rebutted. In 2014, when police choked an unarmed Eric Garner to death in Staten Island over allegedly selling untaxed cigarettes, a quality-of-life offense, new criticism began to mount. Even the Daily News (8/4/14) has reported on the strategy’s detrimental effects on people of color.

Responding to critics, the theory’s co-creator, George Kelling, complained that the approach was being given a bad rap: “Don’t Blame My ‘Broken Windows’ Theory for Poor Policing” (Politico, 8/11/15). The theory’s other co-creator, James Q. Wilson, was less convinced about the impact on crime that Broken Windows promised:  “I still to this day do not know if improving order will or will not reduce crime.”

The most straightforward way of analyzing the theory’s premise—that quality-of-life enforcement brings down serious crime—might be to compare low-level arrests with crime figures. If the explosion of arrests that erupted at the beginning of the Broken Windows era, the early- to mid-’90s, drove crime down to record lows, then it would hold that fewer arrests would lead to upticks in crime. Again, this was the News‘ rationale for its  fearmongering Stop and Frisk editorial assessment four years ago.

However, as arrests have declined by about 25 percent since 2010 (which the News itself points out), something miraculous happened: Crime didn’t go up like it didn’t go up when reported numbers of stops went down.

The News editorial board, of course, wants it both ways. They want to grasp on for dear life to a racially targeted, decades-old policing philosophy as something that “works” without having to prove to their readers any demonstrable correlation to crime levels. They simply assert it, Trump-style.

One thing is clear: The theory’s most important component was a system of mass arrests for the most benign offenses. Enforcement against fare-beating, marijuana possession, panhandling, vending and even just performing on the train have been a part of the Broken Windows legacy. Last year alone there were over 25,000 arrests for fare evasion. Even as Kelling has claimed the strategy wasn’t about arrests, others—like Columbia University’s Professor Bernard Harcourt, who has published books and studies debunking Broken Windows—have shown that by Kelling and the NYPD’s own measures, arrests were key (Huffington Post, 8/17/15).

Arrests, which have always had life-altering consequences, are now a major point of contention not only in New York, but in cities across the country. Even in so-called “sanctuary cities,” where local officials limit their cooperation with immigration officials, high-arrest strategies put immigrants at risk by providing data to federal law enforcement agencies (Village Voice, 12/13/16). Stories are starting to pour in, including one of a man arrested and convicted for misdemeanor marijuana possession in 2015 (pre-Trump). The arrest was cited by immigration officials in its deportation order.

The Daily News editorial stance on these policing risks for immigrants: “Too bad.”

Daily News on Broken Windows deportations: "too bad"

If you get deported for jumping a turnstile, the Daily News has two words for you: “Too bad.”

To take the foot off of the Broken Windows pedal, apparently, is beyond the pale for the News, which has otherwise been noticeably critical of Trump’s efforts. Deporting immigrants for low-level crimes is a price the editorial board is more than willing to pay to keep the policing status quo in place—even if no one can prove that it “works.”

Who again is it who wants to rally around corporate media?

Maybe it’s time to ask the New York Daily News editorial board to provide actual evidence that Broken Windows “works.”  You can send them a letter to the editor (, tweet them (@NYDailyNews) or even call them (212-210-2100) and ask them to back up their assertions—especially with people’s lives hanging in the balance.

Molly say:
So keep fightin' for freedom and justice, beloveds, but don't you forget to have fun doin' it. Lord, let your laughter ring forth. Be outrageous, ridicule the fraidy-cats, rejoice in all the oddities that freedom can produce. And when you get through kickin' ass and celebratin' the sheer joy of a good fight, be sure to tell those who come after how much fun it was.


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