Bill de Blasio is NYC's mayor now. Ray Kelly and his racist stop and frisk program are gone. In his place is the new police commissioner, William Bratton. And it seems we may have simply traded stop and frisk for another annoying NYPD tactic.
William Bratton is not some hippie liberal fantasy— he is the man who first embraced the "Broken Windows" theory of policing in New York City, during his first stint as NYPD chief under Rudy Giuliani in the early 1990s. That means that he became a celebrated policing guru by cracking down on "quality of life crimes" like petty vandalism, turnstile jumping, and other piddly little crimes that, the theory went, created the atmosphere for worse criminal activity to happen.
We won't go into the (ample) debate over whether or not Broken Windows Theory was all a mirage. We will simply point out that, as the NYPD releases a new set of numbers for crime since De Blasio took office, it paints a picture of a police force that is turning away from stop and frisk—but back towards aggressive policing of extremely minor crimes. The New York Times reports that in the first two months of 2014, a few interesting new NYPD policing trends have become apparent: stop and frisks in the subway system have plunged by more than 90% compared to last year, while there has been no accompanying horrific rise in serious crime— to the contrary, murders are down by 18.5%. But those stop and frisks have been replaced with something new: many more arrests for minor crimes.
In the first two months of the year, arrests of peddlers and panhandlers on subways have more than tripled over the same period last year...
On New York City Housing Authority property, arrests for felonies are down nearly 5 percent and arrests for misdemeanors are nearly flat. But arrests for violations — a category of infractions that includes drinking beer in public and riding a bike on the sidewalk — has increased by more than 21 percent.
Broken Windows Theory all over again. Sure, aggressive enforcement of misdemeanor laws seems preferable to widespread racially discriminatory stop and frisks by the police. But such crackdowns certainly have the potential for some of the same pitfalls that the stop and frisk program did—in particular, racial discrimination and alienation of the public. It is, at least, something to keep an eye on.
People who want panhandlers on the train to be arrested are generally huge assholes.