In a recent article at Vox, Dara Lind and German Lopez looked at the various theories for why crime has declined so much over the past two decades, based on a recent report from the Brennan Center for Justice. One of the commonly accepted explanations is the trend in “broken windows” policing, the idea that aggressively focusing on smaller quality-of-life crimes lowers the incidence of crime overall. In looking at the evidence, however, they conclude:
The bottom line: Too difficult to tell. Ultimately, different departments define “broken-windows policing” differently and implement it in different ways — and, again, often alongside other changes. It’s true it’s hard to tell why crime declines in cities, but that applies to broken-windows policing as much as it applies to other macro explanations.
Furthermore, one of the main proponents of the broken windows success story, Malcolm Gladwell, has started to back away from that conclusion.
The Brennan Center report also comes down hard on the idea that mass incarceration is beneficial for reducing crime.
One thing that characterized both the broken windows and mass incarceration trends is that they were disproportionately used against minority communities. The protests in the second half of 2014 and into this year are a reaction to that. Minority communities feel harassed and victimized by police. Eric Garner’s last words “I Can’t Breathe” struck a chord for many people across the country who’ve dealt with it.
I’ve never bought into the idea that broken windows has any benefit. The idea that you can create order through fear and intimidation is a delusion. The combination of broken windows and mass incarceration with a society where so many little things are criminalized, from jaywalking to selling loose cigarettes to pot possession, inevitably ends up with increased antagonism between the police and the public. We’re now at the point where trying to measure the benefits of these crime prevention strategies needs to be accompanied with efforts to measure their drawbacks.
News items from the last two weeks…
US Attorney General Eric Holder has called for a national moratorium on the death penalty.
American and British spies were able to steal the encryption keys from multinational SIM card maker Gemalto.
Dan Froomkin writes about how the Obama Administration’s promises to scale back the collection of bulk metadata by the NSA haven’t been met.
Clare Sestanovich looks at the way police agencies and legislators across the country are dealing with the use of police body cameras and the requests by the public to see the footage.
Andrea Peterson writes about what Obama is getting wrong about encryption technologies.
Peter Maass writes about the prosecution of Stephen Kim, who was jailed for leaking info on North Korea to Fox News reporter James Rosen.
Non-violent animal rights activists are being tried as terrorists in the U.S.
A Federal judge refused to dismiss the case against the Kettle Falls five, a group of medical marijuana patients in eastern Washington who were arrested in 2012. There’s hope that the oldest defendant, who is 71 and fighting pancreatic cancer, will not be tried with the other four.
The ACLU of Washington is suing a Skagit Valley hospital district for violating the state’s abortion laws.
A Federal judge in California ruled that he can’t decide on the constitutionality of the NSA’s spying because it would reveal state secrets.
Josh Harkinson writes about US Attorney in NorCal, Melinda Haag, and her continued attempts to shut down dispensaries against the wishes of cities and the state Congressional delegation. Jacob Sullum discusses the legality of this and the Kettle Falls five prosecutions.
San Francisco uses money intended for anti-terror purposes to catch fare evaders on their transit system.
San Diego police attacked a family who was entering their own family-run store late at night.
A bill advancing in the Arizona legislature would prohibit the names of officers involved in shootings to be released to the public for three months.
More shenanigans from the Albuquerque PD.
Texas is preparing to execute a man who is very likely innocent (again).
The religious fundamentalist governor of Kansas removed the state’s protections against discrimination for its LGBT state employees.
In Chicago, victims of torture at the hands of police are still fighting for justice decades later.
Police in Illinois raided a family’s maple syrup operation, which they somehow thought was a meth lab.
In Alabama, an Indian man visiting his family was severely beaten by police while walking around their neighborhood.
Prisoners in South Carolina are being sent to solitary confinement for accessing Facebook.
The trial of alleged 9/11 co-conspirators continues to be wracked by U.S. government misdeeds in years past.
Canada’s Supreme Court legalized physician-assisted suicide, joining only 4 other European countries.
A British court ruled that the GCHK, Britian’s top surveillance agency, broke the law in its collaborations with the NSA.
A Ukrainian journalist was arrested for making a YouTube video encouraging people to dodge the draft
With the Russian annexation of Crimea, effective drug treatment programs have been shut down.
Amy Goodman interviews Sami Al-Arian and his daughter Laila about Sami’s decade long persecution by U.S. authorities over his pro-Palestinian activism.
Turkey led the world in requests to Twitter for content removal.
A human rights activist in Azerbaijan named Emin Huseynov, who is married to an American servicewoman, was denied assistance by the U.S. embassy in Baku and had to seek refuge at the Swiss embassy.
Nina Easton writes about the progress being made in Saudi Arabia to give more basic rights to women.
Bahrain continues its violent crackdown on protestors.
The United States is still blowing up children in Yemen.
The Associated Press released some harrowing statistics compiled on the civilian death toll from the summer’s Israeli attacks against Palestinians. Meanwhile, Palestinian MK Hanin Zoabi has been barred from the upcoming election over her harsh criticism of Israel’s occupation and treatment of Palestinian communities. On Wednesday, the Supreme Court overturned that ban, along with the ban of Baruch Marzel, who had been barred for participation in a racist political group.
In Iran, jailed Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian is being prevented from hiring an attorney.
The Cambodian government is under fire for rejecting the claims of Vietnamese asylum seekers and returning them to areas where they’re in danger.
An Indonesian lawmaker was criticized for proposing that high school girls would have to submit to a virginity exam in order to receive a diploma. International pressure continues to grow on the draconian drug penalties in Indonesia.