Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Broken Windows and Common Sense

The heart of the wonderful success William Bratton has had in fighting crime in the nation’s cities--now in Los Angeles--is the very common sense approach called broken windows policing or, you put the cops where the crimes are, regardless of how minor the crime, even broken windows.

This is as straightforward as the Willie Sutton quote, a famous bank robber of many years ago, who, when asked why he robbed banks, said, "That’s where the money is.”

It is also the principle embedded in the old adage “It takes a thief to catch a thief”—referring to professional thieves—which the Lampstand Foundation has reformulated to read, “It takes a reformed criminal to reform criminals.”

An excerpt from the article about William Bratton.

“William J. Bratton stepped into a drab, cramped room at Los Angeles Police Department headquarters on a recent Tuesday morning.

“The 61-year-old chief took his seat, slipped on a pair of reading glasses and waited for his bosses -- the five civilian commissioners who oversee the LAPD -- to begin their weekly meeting. As they do each week, the commissioners soon turned their attention to Bratton, who ticked off the department's latest crime numbers.

"Homicides down 8.9%, rapes down 14.2%, robberies down 3.4%, aggravated assault down 6.4%." Bratton read on at a quick monotone clip: Burglary, grand theft auto, gang crimes, shooting victims -- all down. The whole thing took about a minute. A commissioner thanked Bratton and the meeting moved on.

“It seemed a perfunctory moment, a dry exchange of numbers the city has come to expect after six years of falling crime under Bratton.

“But for Bratton, the most influential cop in America today, the numbers are everything.

“They are the hard evidence he has spent a career trying to amass: proof that he has the blueprint for fighting crime in urban America.

“The numbers have dropped long enough and far enough now that Bratton could call it quits in Los Angeles, say "mission accomplished" and move on. Many city leaders have long been convinced that he is, in fact, on his way out. Some assumed he'd take over the Department of Homeland Security, others say he is certain to be the next director of the FBI. Every year or so, the British tabloids nominate him anew as a sure bet to take over Scotland Yard.”