Tuesday, March 08, 2016

Broken Windows Do Not Exist Only in Communities of Color

by Dick Mac

The notion that ". . . [d]isorder is not directly linked to serious crime; instead, disorder leads to increased fear and withdrawal from residents, which then allows more serious crime to move in because of decreased levels of informal social control[,]" is sound philosophy.

I have no problem with the idea that disorder creates a chaotic environment in which crime becomes inevitable, and potentially accepted.  The crimes that are covered by broken windows policies are not violent crimes: broken windows, public drinking, parking violations, marijuana possession, public urination, loitering, etc., quality-of-life crimes.  If my neighbors are ignoring simple laws that help society function from day-to-day, then the quality of my life goes down.  Their behavior creates tension with others that can (and often does) lead to verbal and physical altercations, and the breaking of additional laws proscribing noise and violence.

One failure of this policy in Brooklyn is that it has been used exclusively against people of color, in neighborhoods that suffer from real crime (East New York, Brownsville, etc.), and is never implemented in generally white communities (Bensonhurst, Borough Park, Dyker Heights, etc.).

The notion that "victim-less" crimes or activities that create chaos do not exist in white communities is absurd.  What has happened is that we have chosen to view the "victim-less crimes" committed by white people to be acceptable while the "victim-less crimes" committed by black people are unacceptable.

I live in a predominantly white area.  There are people of color, but the majority are of European heritage.  Many of the services and businesses I use are in predominantly white neighborhoods; not exclusively, but generally.  I drive through Midwood to Bensonhurst, Dyker Heights, and Borough Park on a regular basis to visit stores, post offices, doctors, banks, and the stuff that we all need.  I also drive through Midwood to Flatbush for department stores, hardware and home improvement stores, etc.

Drive along Avenue M, Bay Parkway, 20th Avenue, 13th Avenue, and other streets in predominantly white neighborhoods, and traffic barely moves.  Why?  Double-parking by cars and delivery trucks.


On Avenue M, in particular, there are businesses attracting many consumers who leave their cars in traffic while they run their quick errand.  At the same time, delivery trucks are double-parking for extended periods while dropping-off their loads.  It is common on Avenue M to wait three light cycles to travel a single block.  I have watched emergency vehicles trapped in these quagmires, school buses paralyzed in place, and pedestrians struck by angry drivers raging to get out of the mess.

Cars get entangled, drives start yelling, angry people intentionally tie-up traffic to scream accusations at each other, horns blow, commerce ceases, and life becomes generally unpleasant, and sometimes dangerous.

Often dangerous.

I took this video recently, and it is a tame version of what happens all day, every day, on Avenue M.  Usually this scene is complemented by beeping horns and yelling people.

Nothing is ever done about this.



This as a quality-of-life crime.

But, because law enforcement chooses to ignore quality-of-life crimes in white neighborhoods, we live with this.

Tie-up traffic for three blocks on Avenue M in the middle of rush hour, and there is no problem.

Urinate on a tree behind a building on Ralph Avenue, and you will be arrested, probably beaten, and possibly shot. If you are black.

I know you think I am exaggerating, and perhaps I am.  A little bit.  You probably won't get shot for public urination in a black neighborhood, but you can be certain there will be NO consequences for disrupting progress, commerce, and traffic in a white neighborhood.  If you are white.

The current mayor is working to alleviate this problem of disproportionate punishment for men of color, and there has been success. It would be a bigger success if the police union would force its membership do their jobs, instead of positioning themselves as political operatives.  At the same time, there has been no effort in any way, shape, or form, to enforce laws in white neighborhoods that could alleviate potentially violent situations.  There are dozens of streets I can't drive down because of illegally parked cars.

It is good that we are moving away from the random and unnecessary harassment of men committing "victim-less crimes" in black neighborhoods, but it would be good if, at the same time, we would enforce the laws against men who commit "victim-less crimes" that disrupt the quality of life for people in white neighborhoods.

Although the notion of "broken window" laws enforcement is generally a good idea, the implementation of it is a complete failure, and the police should take responsibility for enforcing laws equally in all communities.

Clean up the white streets while you clean up the black streets.  Ticket and tow cars, and arrest drivers who refuse to cooperate or continually break the laws.

Thank you for letting me vent, we now return you to your regular programming . . .

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