“Broken Windows” Policing Data Shows Racial Bias

August 4, 2014 | Marina Galperina

According to a review of city-wide summons data by the Daily News“broken windows” policing shows glaring racial disparity. Implemented in the 1990s, the theory that aggressive policing of minor “quality-of-life offenses” deters serious crime has come under fire since the death of Eric Garner, who died from being placed in a chokehold during his arrest for selling loosie cigarettes in Staten Island.

Of the 7.3 million people issued a violation for petty infractions between 2001 and 2013, around 81% were either black and Hispanic. The most frequent of these violations include consumption of alcohol on the streets (1,551,453), public urination (334,003), biking on a sidewalk (295,849), and acting as an unlicensed general vendor (78,548).

Based on about 30% of the summons that contained race data as well as demographic info collected from the summons line — 46% of New Yorkers cited for minor violations were black, 35% Hispanic, 14% white and 5% other. Not only are black and Hispanic men predominately issued summonses, the NYPD clearly targets neighborhoods with greater populations of African Americans and Latinos.

In some precincts, the rate of summonses was more than 1 in 10 residents last year, such as the 25th Precinct (East Harlem North), which is 90% black and Hispanic, where there were 18 summonses per 100 residents; the 40th Precinct (Mott Haven, Bronx), which is 98% black and Hispanic (16 per 100 residents); and the 41st Precinct (Hunts Point, Bronx), which is 98% black and Hispanic, (16 per 100 residents).

“My neighborhood is like it’s under martial law. We got all these rookie officers on each corner. These officers, they just run around and ask you for any excuse to ask you for your ID and write you a summons,” said Angel Garcia, 34, of East Harlem, waiting in line at summons court in lower Manhattan last month.

The number of “broken windows” arrests surged from 160,000 in 1993 to 648,638 in 2005, but has fallen to 431,217 in 2013 and decreased by 17% so far in 2014. However, the Daily News notes that “writing out violations still remains the most frequent activity of the New York City Police Department, far surpassing felony and misdemeanor arrests combined.” (Images: @baltimoredave, charts: Daily News