D.A. Vance Cautions Against Return to Broken Windows Policing in Daily News Op-Ed

August 24, 2020

Empirical evidence shows broken windows policing does not reduce violent crime

Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance, Jr. today repudiated calls to increase arrests and prosecutions of low-level, non-violent offenses as a response to this summer’s spike in gun violence across New York City.

In a New York Daily News op-ed, D.A. Vance argued that a broken windows policing revival, with its focus on low-level arrests and prosecutions, would exacerbate the multi-generational harm caused by mass incarceration while serving little to no public safety purpose.

“A return to broken windows policing risks further deteriorating relationships between law enforcement and our communities of color who are reeling from this summer’s increased violence and are suffering the pandemic’s most deleterious health and economic effects,” D.A. Vance wrote.

The Manhattan D.A.’s Office has challenged broken windows orthodoxy in recent years by declining to prosecute low-level offenses such as marijuana possession, subway fare evasion, and unlicensed vending. As a result of these policy changes, the D.A.’s Office cut prosecutions by 58% over the past decade, while violent crime plummeted. Meanwhile, thousands of New Yorkers who would have otherwise become entangled with the justice system — despite posing minimal threat to society — instead avoided collateral consequences such as ruined college, housing and job applications.

 To more effectively reduce gun violence, D.A. Vance emphasized the need for the city to invest in community-grounded organizations, like those funded by the D.A.’s Criminal Justice Investment Initiative, that support and empower youth, families, crime survivors, and re-entering New Yorkers in communities of color deeply harmed by police violence and unnecessary incarceration.

“Rather than resorting to discredited, heavy-handed approaches to the lowest-level infractions, real investments in our communities will lay the foundation for New York success stories yet to come,” D.A. Vance concluded.

The op-ed can be viewed in full here. More information is available about CJII here.