This City's Policing Of "Disorder" Led To Mass Criminalization Of Black People

Broken window
Zain Murdock
June 29, 2021

In 1993, Rudy Giuliani became New York City’s new mayor, touting a huge promise: to make this country’s biggest city safe again. How? He had a new theory on his belt: “broken windows” policing.

Broken windows theory means that if police tackle smaller signs of “disorder” in a community, like broken windows, bigger issues like murder and violence will also stop. So that’s what the NYPD did – from subway fare-beaters to unhoused people to graffiti artists, no one was safe. 

Did it work?

To this day, Giuliani claims he “saved” New York. But in reality, way more Black people ended up incarcerated. For example, misdemeanor arrests for marijuana increased by 6,430% during his reign!

“Broken windows” developed into “stop-and-frisk,” which at its peak had 685,000+ stops in a year. The avalanche of anti-Black criminalization seemed unstoppable.

But here’s the thing: crime rates started decreasing long before broken windows was used, and in cities where it wasn’t! 

Researchers say it was because of other factors, like dropping unemployment rates. Other studies show that the theory itself is flawed – “neighborly disorder” doesn’t equal bad behavior.

This country tells us everything it can to make us believe we'd be living in a dystopia without police. But the reality is, they created the dystopia – and take credit for false ideas that they’re keeping us safe.