May 1, 2007

Long processes...

From City Journal, a good piece on the Broken Windows theory in action..

...In the early nineties, the chief of New York City’s transit police, William Bratton, put the Broken Windows theory into practice. With Kelling as consultant, Bratton began to go after the fare evaders, aggressive panhandlers, pickpockets, and other petty (and not so petty) criminals who had turned the subway system into what he called “the transit equivalent of Dante’s Inferno.” Bratton also had cops enforce anti-loitering laws to steer the homeless away from the subways and toward social services. Homeless advocates and civil libertarians fought him every step of the way, but Bratton prevailed, bringing order to the chaotic system. Sure enough, not only did minor crime plummet; serious crime did, too, and ridership soared. In nabbing low-level offenders, Bratton also discovered that many of them were wanted for much more serious crimes.

A few years later, Mayor Rudy Giuliani chose Bratton as his top cop and charged him with leading a similar revolution above ground. The rest, as they say, is history...

...Bratton is now the chief of police in Los Angeles, where he has successfully employed many of the tactics that worked in New York....
(Thanks to Orrin)

My off-the-top-of-the-head guess is that LA will be a much harder nut to crack than NY. But I sure wish them well. Notice how, as with every important reform, the opposition comes from the Left. The reactionaries of our time.

Also, cases like this can only be understood as things working over a long period of time. The "homeless advocate" may focus on one moment, and see cops rousting poor bums from the tiny comfort they can find in the subway. Looks bad. But in fact this is one instant in a process that extends backwards in time through decades of neglect, and also forward in time towards improvements that may take decades to become apparent. To focus on one moment is to tell a lie.

WE see the exact same thing in debates about the War on Terror.

Posted by John Weidner at May 1, 2007 11:22 AM
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