Law Enforcement News

Vol. XXIX, Nos. 611, 612 A publication of John Jay College of Criminal Justice/CUNY December 15/31, 2003

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In this issue:
DNA sometimes makes for bad-fitting genes.

Alarming developments.

Wheel-y big news.

Drunk as a skunk.

Another fine meth.

Stirring the pot.

Violence is all in the family.

Sex meets violence.

When good cops go bad.

Looking for warm bodies.

Wolves in cops’ clothing.

Crime’s ups & downs.

A few good anti-crime ideas.

Research looks for answers.

Facing up to profiling.

Order in the court.

Banking on ill-gotten gains.

Taking advantage of high-tech advances.

Changes at the top.

That’s just too weird.

Justice by the numbers.

LEN salutes its 2003 Person of the Year:
As clear as glass
With the “Broken Windows” thesis,
George Kelling puts things into focus for policing

Continued from previous page ...

Considering Context

     Good officers, said Kelling, look at context as well as behavior. In Kelling’s view, the two are closely, if not inextricably linked. One example he likes to cite concerns a couple of panhandlers who hung around the entrance of a Boston subway stop. At 8 o’clock in the morning, he said, the men’s behavior did not seem threatening; at 10 o’clock at night, it did.

     Squeegee men are another example. During the 1990s, when then-Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and Police Commissioner William Bratton were trying to rid New York City’s streets of its ubiquitous squeegee men as part of a broader quality-of-life enforcement initiative, Kelling asked if he could be driven to a spot where he could interview one of the window washers. He was paired with a patrol officer considered to be among the most aggressive when it came to squeegee enforcement.

     While driving down the street, the officer called a squeegee man over by name and warned him to stay off the street that night because there would be a crackdown. Kelling asked him why he had given the man a pass, and the officer, he said, replied that the fellow was a Vietnam veteran who supplemented his pension by asking motorists if he could wash their windows. He did not want to see this man, who was not a threat, spend a night in jail.

     “In my mind, that was discretion at its best,” Kelling told LEN. “I don’t think anyone believes that a Broken Windows policy is going to wipe out all panhandling or prostitution, but it’s going to change how it’s done.”

Causality Questioned

     Kelling’s work has also been challenged conceptually by fellow academics. In 2001, the National Institute of Justice released “Disorder in Urban Neighborhoods – Does it Lead to Crime?” a study by Stephen W. Raudenbush of the University of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research, and Robert J. Sampson, a sociologist at the University of Chicago, which asserted that while disorder and crime were related, one does not lead to the other. [See LEN, March 15, 2001.]

     Sampson said he and Raudenbush disagree with Kelling on two points. They do not view disorder and crime and causally linked, but rather as elements of the same larger phenomenon. And even if disorder could be separated from criminal activity, he said, both could be caused by another common condition, such as the concentration of poverty in a neighborhood, its composition, and the cohesiveness of its members.

     “Our research tended to suggest that these other characteristics, in part, explained the relationship away,” Sampson told LEN. “Not fully, because disorder was still related to certain crimes, like robbery. So we saw it as a partial rejection of the idea that there is a direct causal link...”

     The paper was met with a blistering rebuttal by Kelling in LEN [March 15, 2001], who said Sampson and Raudenbush had, among other things, deliberately misrepresented Broken Windows by suggesting that it advocated cleaning up disorder through law enforcement techniques.

     Broken Windows, said Kelling, “almost always has to be done in consultation with neighborhoods, with business improvement districts. That for me has always been an integral part of community policing. Broken Windows apart from community policing misses an important dimension and that is pursuit of the consent of citizens and the cooperation and collaboration of citizens.”

     During the Giuliani years in New York, said Kelling, Broken Windows became ensnared in the debate between conservatives and liberals. The argument was that crime had been slashed, but at the cost of increased police harassment and brutality, he said.

     “It’s hard to develop evidence that that’s really the case,” said Kelling. “During the decade, complaints declined, shootings, killing of citizens went from something like 42 in the last years of [Mayor David] Dinkins to 11 in the bad old [Amadou] Diallo year of 1998.

     “Again, I think zero tolerance is an attempt to portray Broken Windows as a form of zealotry that leads to arbitrary and rote responses on the part of police,” he asserted. “That is certainly nothing I ever advocate and that very few police will become involved in.”

Practitioners’ Endorsement

     While some academics may dispute the finer points of Broken Windows, there has been little dissension from practitioners.

     “What [Kelling] really enabled police to do is take seriously the majority of police work, which was non-criminal, and realize it was important intrinsically, that is was important ultimately in terms of dealing with crime, and most importantly of all, our work on order maintenance was the glue that could hold increasingly diverse societies together in their urban stasis,” said Massachusetts’ Flynn.

     As a young lieutenant in the Jersey City Police Department, Flynn recalled, there was not much he could do about implementing Broken Windows, although the article left him “thunderstruck” as he realized how many of his own observations were codified by the theory.

     When he became chief in Chelsea, Mass., Flynn said he had the opportunity to “apply the lessons [Kelling] had learned for us.” He continued to use those ideas, he said, as chief in Arlington County, Va., a jurisdiction with “the most diverse ZIP code in the U.S.”

Metaphor for a Mindset

     Chief Robert Olson of the Minneapolis Police Department said he found it remarkable that someone could take a phrase and turn it into a metaphor for an entire mindset in law enforcement.

     “Today, I would challenge anyone to go through any police department, city hall, mayor, anybody who’s involved in government, not just policing…you say to them ‘Broken Windows,’ and they will look at you with a knowing look and know what that is,” he told LEN. “They may not be able to articulate it well — depending on who you talk to — but they know that means that society needs to take care of the little things and the big things will take of themselves.”

     Not even Kelling, Olson said, would have thought to apply the Broken Windows concept to terrorism. But the theory has developed such a mindset in law enforcement that when faced with a new challenge, police are already thinking in that mode, he said.

     And it has been the case that terrorists have to commit small criminal acts to position themselves for larger ones, Kelling agrees, citing an article in The Wall Street Journal that found that a cell of terrorist operating in Bonn, Germany, committed a variety of minor offenses. Timothy McVeigh, he noted, was caught committing a traffic offense.

     Kelling sees three ways in which terrorism can be prevented: environmental design, technology and community policing. Intelligence sharing between federal agencies and local law enforcement has improved, he said, but continues to be problematic due to bureaucratic traditions.

     Flynn said he fears that with an increasing number of criminal-justice grant programs suffering cuts in appropriations in order to increase funding for homeland security, the crime-control gains made throughout the 1990s will be lost through de-policing and loss of attention to public order.

Think Globally, Act Locally

     A “federal-centric” homeland security approach, he told LEN, fails to take into account the great potential for local law enforcement to provide assistance.

     “We can develop intelligence that’s useful, the same way we developed information about narcotics activity, gambling activity and a wide range of other criminal activity,” said Flynn. “Neighborhoods that trust us will tell us.”

     Last year, Kelling, in conjunction with the Manhattan Institute, convened a meeting of state and local chiefs whose jurisdictions run along the Interstate 95 corridor between Massachusetts and Maryland. The I-95 group, as it is called, explores ways of working more cooperatively on complicated issues like terrorism.

     One of the chiefs who is part of this I-95 group is Edward Davis of the Lowell, Mass., Police Department. As a result of the first two meetings he attended, Davis told LEN, his agency’s intelligence officers now meet on a regular basis to discuss individuals and cases that extend across state lines.

     “I think George clearly sees there is a need in that area,” he said. “There hasn’t been a lot of focus on local police agencies; the federal government has tasked the FBI with this issue. They’ve come a long way over the past few years in working on intelligence sharing and also being more inclusive of state and local agencies in the process, but there is a benefit to having the local agencies have their own systems in place where intelligence officers know each other, and information can be passed easily up and down that particular piece of geography in the Northeast.”

     Yet most people continue to apply Broken Windows to neighborhood issues, asserted Charlotte-Mecklenburg’s Chief Stephens. While people want to talk about terrorism these days, he said, police still have drug-dealing locations, disorder in the community and many of the similar challenges that the theory was designed to meet.

     “Many departments are stretched very thin today because of additional responsibility,” he said. “But they’re still applying those theories in the same way.”

     On the West Coast, the Los Angeles Police Department is getting some hands-on guidance from Kelling. He has been asked by Bratton, who took command of the agency in 2002, to help with five problems. The first and most pressing is the homicide rate, said Kelling. The plan is to try and find ways to deal with gang violence. The second has to do with the city’s Skid Row. While there is a great deal of “political rhetoric,” he said, about homelessness, it is lawlessness which is the problem. The other three include gang congregation in McArthur Park, car theft and gang violence in the San Fernando Valley, and prostitution concerns along Hollywood Boulevard.

2003: A year in retrospect
Can criminal justice tame the “monster” that’s eating it?

Continued from previous page ...

Who’s Who

     Spotting potential terrorists has become an increasingly thorny problem as law enforcement practitioners wrestle with the growing phenomenon of identity theft. With cases of identity theft already at alarming levels and continuing to skyrocket, the situation bodes ill for the cop on patrol as well as for society at large. To the average officer, checking identity usually means scrutinizing a driver’s license. This ritual, carried out thousands of times each day, remains fraught with tension and peril. Since 9/11, driver’s licenses have assumed added importance and many states are still trying to make their licenses more foolproof, and in some cases have also adopted measures to link licenses with information on the holder’s immigration status. In many areas of the country, notably California, debate continues to swirl around the acceptance of Mexican ID cards — the matricula consular — as valid proof of identification for obtaining a driver’s license.

     This form of ID is currently accepted in at least 13 states. Some law enforcement officials support the policy as a practical matter, noting that illegal Mexican immigrants in this country are already driving illegally anyway, that some identification is better than none, and that the use of the ID card will increase the number of insured drivers on the road. Others criticize what they see as the security risks inherent in acceptance of the cards. According to the FBI, the matricula consular IDs have become “a major item on the product list” of fraudulent documents around the world. They are easy to forge and there is some indication that the consulates that issue them are not taking even cursory steps to assure their validity. They are subject to corruption and Mexican authorities do not keep track of those to whom the identity cards are issued. Critics of their use also point to the fact that the driver’s license is in essence a pass-key into other forms of identification fraud.

     Disagreement over the acceptance of Mexican ID cards is no less a factor among federal agencies as it is within local and state law enforcement. While the Justice Department remains firmly opposed to the practice on security grounds, the Treasury Department supports it as a way of making it easier for illegal immigrants to put their money in American banks. The controversy over the ID cards is symptomatic of the schizophrenic attitude the country feels towards illegal aliens. Federal officials estimate that there are 8 million to 9 million undocumented immigrants currently living in the US, a stunning increase of between 1 million and 2 million from the number estimated in 2000. The increase comes despite figures indicating that new arrivals in this country are dropping. What may be at work is a change in deportation policy, as the emphasis shifts away from Mexicans. Federal officials reported that in 2002, 75 percent more undocumented immigrants from Arabic and Muslim nations were deported than the year before — this despite a 16-percent decrease in the overall number of deportations of illegal immigrants.

     In the first eight months of the year alone, the Department of Homeland Security raised the nation’s terrorism alert level to “orange” on four occasions. Initially, editorial cartoonists and late-night comics had a field day making jokes about duct tape and plastic window sheeting, but to local police it was no laughing matter, as they complained that the alerts were overly vague and put added pressure on local overtime budgets that were already under enormous strain. The Department of Homeland Security promised to rethink the issue and by November it reported that the system had been fine-tuned, with a more refined stream of information furnished to local agencies. Not all problems were addressed or eliminated. Local officials in Las Vegas were furious when they were not informed about photos of the city that turned up in a federal terrorist investigation. And amid the clamor over the type of information supplied to local law enforcement, left unanswered was the question of how the information will get to the public.

Meanwhile, Life Goes On

     With all the re-sorting and redefinition of local and federal anti-terrorism roles, and the local resources that have had to be devoted to anti-terrorism efforts, the day-to-day business of law enforcement goes on undiminished: answering calls for service, trying to prevent crime, and responding to and investigating those crimes already committed. Beyond the added burden of counterterrorism responsibilities, many local and state agencies find themselves stretching budgets even further as they pick up the slack in areas that the feds have backed away from, especially drug enforcement and bank robbery investigations. While many FBI agents were reassigned to anti-terrorism activities, the Drug Enforcement Administration has yet to get additional resources, and the burden has been passed along to localities. In June, the General Accounting Office reported that the number of FBI assigned to drugs had fallen by more than half and that new investigations fell to only 310 by midyear. The White House drug policy office released data showing that the 25 largest cities are the sites of 40 percent of all drug-induced deaths and drug-related arrests. In drug enforcement as well as bank-robbery investigation, the feds are offering “cooperation,” but what localities really need are resources, and little of that appears to be forthcoming. Bank robbery has soared in many localities, frequently committed by perpetrators who defy conventional profiling. In the absence of federal assistance, localities were left to appeal to the banking industry to play a more vigorous and vigilant role in its protection.

Doing More With Less

     The monster was also on the prowl as local spending was seriously curtailed amid historic budget deficits. Some small departments all but disappeared. Community policing efforts were scaled back and officers who had been dedicated to the purpose were redeployed to answer calls for service. Officers were laid off, retirements continued to accelerate, and recruit classes were rescheduled. In some localities, station houses were closed at night. To cope with dwindling resources, some departments, like Richmond, Va., gave volunteers more responsibility for such things as taking reports for nonviolent crime. New York City assigned rookies fresh from the academy to work in high-crime areas. While crime rates have not returned to the level of the early 1990s, there is a nagging and uneasy sensation in the police community that things are not going as well as they had been. Quality-of-life crime is on the rise in some areas, while other areas are experiencing significant and disturbing increases in homicides. One leading police expert described it as “watching ‘broken windows’ in reverse.” All in all, it’s not a good sign.

     With budgets stretched to the limit, a number of departments have tried to recapture control of the personnel time lost to answering false alarms. The Salt Lake City Police Department implemented a policy in 2000 — over vigorous opposition from private security companies — that mandates verified response to alarms. The policy change resulted almost immediately in a 90-percent reduction in police dispatches to alarms. It replicates an approach — and the results — previously achieved by the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department in the early ’90s. Yet taking on the private security industry and its burglar-alarm clientele can be a dicey proposition, as was demonstrated in Los Angeles when the police tried to tinker with the response policy and the City Council stepped in to assert jurisdiction over the issue. Help in dealing with false alarms is available from the Justice Department’s COPS Office, which has produced a continuing series of guides on this and other issues, including the benefits and consequences of police crackdowns, financial crimes against the elderly, and check and credit-card fraud. The problem-oriented guides currently cover more than 20 topics, with more on the way.

     During the course of 2003, public safety personnel have been confronted with blizzards and hurricanes, fires and floods, computer network hackers, a major power blackout that blanketed the Northeast and Midwest, heightened anti-terrorism alerts, patrol cars that explode and body armor that doesn’t stop bullets — and all the while dealing with the day-to-day business of policing. Law enforcement personnel must be prepared to handle disasters of all types, both natural and man-made. That includes a terrorist attack, for, as Shakespeare’s Hamlet observed: “If it be not now, yet it will come. The readiness is all.”

     We are still not ready.