Broken Windows Policing in New York City

ICPPUL > Police > Broken Windows Policing in New York City


Part 1) How New York Developed a Computerized Anti-Crime System to combat 1970s-1980s crime


  • Crime was out of control in NYC in the 1970s and 1980s.
  • Police only cared about press cases: crime against white people or the wealthy.
  • Police leadership withheld true crime rates from the mayor.
  • Jack Maple innovated with decoy units to make the subway unsafe for criminals.
  • Jack’s actual “big idea” was to map crime and computerize these maps to isolate the small fraction of criminals responsible for a disproportionate amout of the crime.
  • Jack’s goal was for the police to treat every crime seriously.


Part 2) How COMPSTATS’s original intent was subverted by “Broken Windows” Policing

  • Jack was very hard on police leadership.
  • Pressure on police to reduce crime backfired because police are responsible for generating the statistics they are judged by.

>> Goal: “Low” Crime Rate with High Police Activity

  • Police downgrade real crime to make the mayor look good.
  • Police aggressively ticket for minor issues in minority neighborhoods to make mayor (leadership) look good.
  • Police only ticket aggressively in poor/minority neighborhoods because a white architect riding bike on the sidewalk likely has connections and will complain.

Goal of Police Reform: Get to trial where you can force the institution to defend its practices.

An important goal is to end the use of quotas.

  • “The great thing about being a cop is that when you’re right, no one can tell you what to do.”