"Broken Windows" new policing for Brixton

Discussion in 'Brixton' started by Gramsci, Dec 29, 2003.

  1. Gramsci

    Gramsci Well-Known Member

    Seen a few articles about the new "Broken Windows" Brixton policing policy in SLP.Their has been a notable increase in Police on the streets.Whether this increase in numbers has decreased crime regardless of the policy and displaced it elsewhere is a question.I dont know what other people think about this.

    I posted this up some time back on another thread.Zero Tolerance/Broken Windows was developed in the US about 20 years ago.Its based on the idea that if small crimes/misdemeneurs are cracked down on then that helps make the area safer.It discourages more serious crime.Begging,graffitti,drunkeness,parking cars on yellow lines etc. are all not ignored by the police under this policy.

    I have seen police go up CHL one night and tell every car to move off the yellow lines-so they are doing the policy.

    Also as in Westminister local residents are being urged not to give money/travelcards to beggars but to a recognised charity like St Mungos.

    Their are critics of Broken Window policing.B E Harcourt in his book "The Illusion of Order--The false promises of Broken Window policing" states that:

    "An emphasis on misdemeanors may seem an appealing alternative to incarceration,but the outcome has often been repressive and costly..A disproportionate number of minorities have been arrested,and police misconduct complaints have increased as stops,frisks and arrests for minor crimes have multiplied."

    The critique by Harcourt is that the question is not a narrow one of whether Broken Windows works or not but its social and political consequences,

    "We need to ask ourselves how these methods for policing disorder shape our citizens,our civic culture and our social relations.Rather than viewing disorder as the cause of crime,perhaps we need to reexamine connections between crime and neighbourhood poverty and stability."

    The Broken Windows in Brixton is being promoted as "Quality of Life" not Zero Tolerance.Politicians like Blunkett confuse "aggressive" policing with "quality of life policing".Aggressive policing also termed by critics Harassment policing can be shown to statistically reduce more serious crime.Interestingly "Quality of Life" policing(stopping beggars etc),which Blunkett and Lambeth seem to think proves that this is not Zero Tolerance in Brixton,has been shown in studies supportive if Broken Windows to be ineffective.The conclusion I draw is that its going to fail or have to be more repressive.

    link to Harcourt:


    Also link to critical but supportive research.Here it argues the "Quality of Life Policing" is not that effective.

  2. lang rabbie

    lang rabbie Je ne regrette les gazebos

    Harcourt's argument is summarised rather more readably in this article

    I completely agree that there are some real problems raised by so-called "quality of life" policing, which criminalises begging, and there seems to be little point bringing in bye-laws on street-drinking unless you are going to provide some sort of support for the drinkers - otherwise they will just be displaced.

    However, I think critics who claim that (unfortunately named) "aggressive" policing, such as handing out parking tickets for all traffic offences, automatically equals "harrassment" policing of minority groups make too much of a simplification.

    There's a reasonable argument that the overall increase in police numbers in New York allowed local street patrol officers to start responding to "minor" crimes that were of real concern in neighbourhoods with predominantly minority ethnic communities, and that they have led to a consequent increase in perceptions of safety. This seems to be the approach that Livingstone and the Met police are taking, rather than a return to the days of the `sus` laws.

    The debate rolls on among New Yorkers, who associated Broken Windows policing with the mayorship of Giuliani.
    article here
  3. hatboy

    hatboy Banned Banned

    Initially I was very suspicious of all this, whatever it is named. But my feeling at the moment (and I may well be wrong and am happy to be shown wrong by anyone who has had unwarranted hassle from Brixton cops recently) is that the police are getting the balance between bothering the innocent and/or "street characters" (meaning people who might look out of place somewhere more suburban but aren't anti-social really) and dealing with the genuinely anti-social more right than before.

    In the SLP it was recently reported that some of the rough sleepers outside the tube have been found hostel and then permanent housing thru the combined approach with the Met, St Mungo's and other agencies. If this is true then that's much better than, "oi you, get up, piss off", which I think was basically the old approach.
  4. hatboy

    hatboy Banned Banned

    Lang, I'd say it is proven that the heavy-handed "zero tolerance" approach in NY did oppress street- and alternative-culture and ethnic minorites.

    My instinct is that this "broken windows" thing in Brixton is something more clever, flexible and subtle. I really hope so.

  5. detective-boy

    detective-boy Banned Banned

    And that's the point. Whatever the police do, and however they do it, they MUST respond to the things that concern the local communities (all of them), not necessarily the things that concern the police themselves, the politicians or the establishment generally (though often they will be broadly the same).
  6. lang rabbie

    lang rabbie Je ne regrette les gazebos

    I'd agree that some elements of "zero tolerance" in NY have been unacceptably heavy-handed, although I think that after a couple of nasty incidents of police violence in the run-up to Giuliani's re-election in 1998, there's been a (generally) more sensitive approach, and a stealthy return to more elements of community policing.

    There's a discussion of the components of the New York experience in this recent article on Bill Bratton who moved from the NYPD to Los Angeles. He was Giuliani's first police commissioner - the Mayor sacked him when he got more credit for crime reduction than the mayor did.

    Hatboy - BTW did you see this BBC story on Williamsburg from a year ago. Dunno how much credence to give it, as to whether it is claiming that zero tolerance made the area safe for the original artist colony or the more recent influx of people gentrifying it!
  7. Caspar Hauser

    Caspar Hauser Boy from Nowhere

    In Giulianis time civilian complaints against the NYPD for excessive force rose by 61.9%. Abuse of authority complaints rose by 86.2% and allegations of illegal searches soared by 135%. More than half the complainants were African American. A further 25% were Latino. In 1998 New York City paid $40 Million to settle lawsuits against police officers accused of police brutality. The city also paid $405 Million to resolve other lawsuits for personal injuries.

    AI - Race, Rights and Police Brutality

    AI - Police Brutality and Excessive Force in the NYPD

    Shielded from Justice: Police Brutality and Accountability in the United States

    Do white New Yorkers care about police brutality?

    Is it a gun, is it a knife
    Is it a wallet, this is your life
    It ain't no secret
    It ain't no secret
    No secret my friend
    You can get killed just for living
    In your American skin
    Bruce Springsteen - 41 shots
  8. hatboy

    hatboy Banned Banned

    Welcome back Casper. Good links. :)

    One thing about this new police thing: They are using sniffer dogs again aren't they? I think that pisses people off.
  9. lang rabbie

    lang rabbie Je ne regrette les gazebos

    I'm not an apologist for the NYPD. No-one can deny that - like the Met - there continues to be a serious concern about how representative it is of the community that it polices, and the prevalence of "institutional racism".

    However, it is important to distinguish uniformed "broken windows" policing in general from the macho posturing of the NYPD's (plain clothes) Street Crimes Unit, which led to the 1999 shooting of Amadou Diallo (victim of the "41 shots" of Springsteen's song).

    “We Own the Night” Amadou Diallo’s Deadly Encounter with
    New York City’s Street Crimes Unit
  10. editor

    editor hiraethified

    I'd like all Lambeth lampposts to be fitted with retractable rubber hands that spring out and deliver a good slap to the ear whenever some shitbag drops their disgusting litter all over the pavement.

    Spring loaded, pavement-mounted, mini-platforms could be employed to dispatch wobbling globules of filthy sticky flob straight back into their disgusting owners faces (have you seen the amount of spit on the streets of Brixton? Yuk!)

    Extra rubber slapping hands could also be fitted by petrol pumps to instantly admonish ashtray-emptying scumbags with a filled stinky bag of fag ends ready for emptying in-car for repeat offenders.

    Is that too much to ask?
  11. Gramsci

    Gramsci Well-Known Member

    Well thanks for the high quality of replies.Ive read most of the links.

    The whole point of the Diallo case was that it was linked to Broken Windows policing.To argue they were separate is Guilianis use of "a few rotten apples" type argument.The defence the police officers in question put up was that this was not premeditated brutality.This was a tragic accident in the line of duty.They were carrying out "standard procedure"-stop and search as part of Broken window policing.Their defence worked and they got off.As some commentors argue this means the type of policing is brought into question.

    Sniffer dogs-their is an argument that they are an infringement on civil liberties.If a police officer stops u to search you he at least has to ask.Use of sniffer dogs is tantamount to stopping and searching someone without any form of consent.

    Looking at Harcourts work Im not clear whether Brixton is getting Broken Windows or not.I agree with Hatboy my feeling is that the cops are not overstepping the mark at this point.As Harcourt points out one of the reasons for the drop in crime in New York could be put down to increased police numbers and greater surveillance and not the theory of Broken windows.He points out that in the same period in other major USA cities which used "problem solving policing"(community type policing in this country)their was the same drop in crime as New York(if not more as NY came fifth).

    So is Brixton getting Broken Windows or not?It could be that politicians(at local and national level)have seen this as a vote winner.They have also seen Guiliani as to abrasive.So,as Harcourt points out,Broken windows is taken up by centre politicians as an alternative to the increasing prison numbers.The theory started off as a right wing idea is taken aboard by liberals.The argument I assume is that in the UK the New Labour/LibDem have their own version of Broken Windows.

    Given that then their is not a proper distinction between Broken Windows and more sensitive community orientated policing.Its a typical fudge to satisfy all types of people.

    Given my interest in theory I find this type of fudge more than irritating.I was amused that in the USA Harcourt has been attacked by Guiliani supporters:

    "Harcourt draws heavily from Michel Foucault and French post-structuralists.Its just so far removed from reality."

    I see that as a compliment.In the US an interest in French post structuralists is the equivalent to being a member of the CP in the Cold War.
  12. Gramsci

    Gramsci Well-Known Member

    Harcourt argues Broken windows policing(he calls it "order maintenance") cannot explain the causal mechanism or the symbolic effect of orderliness on crime reduction.It cant distinguish between Broken window and traditional explanations for crime reduction-increased police presence,contact,surveillance. So what is its effect on a community?

    As one of the links the Lang Rabbie put up one area of NY now "cleaned up" as become rapidly gentrified.Well thats no improvement in my book.

    Could Brixton be cleaned up for an influx of the better off and "more respectable"?

    Harcourt argues that the theory behind Broken windows is that a percentage of the population have an ingrained propensity to crime.This is highly contentious as he says:

    "What exactly is the distinction between eccentricity,nonconformity,unconventiality,difference,disorder,and criminality."

    "Its in,in effect,a type of "aesthetic policing" that fosters a sterile,Disneyland,consumerist,commercial,aesthetic."

    I still dont understand why in the UK this style of policing has been adopted by centre politicians.Apparently NYPD has been visited on many occasions to see how its policing works.Why dont the same people go to say San Franscisco to see how their more community based model works?
  13. hatboy

    hatboy Banned Banned

    "What exactly is the distinction between eccentricity, non-conformity, unconventionality, difference, disorder and criminality?"

    Good point I suppose, but it surely doesn't take much common sense to see the difference between being able to be a distinctive individual and being genuiely criminal or anti-social? I think the difference is not hurting people. And from the other more conservative side, not fussing about trivial stuff and people who do things you don't want to do.

    "It is in effect a type of "aesthetic policing" that fosters a sterile, Disneyland, consumerist, commercial, aesthetic."

    Now that's what I don't want! That's the way the western world is going and its shit. I don't want to live in "The Truman Show".

  14. Caspar Hauser

    Caspar Hauser Boy from Nowhere

    Thanks hatboy :oops:.
    I am still lurking around from time to time, but I had to contribute on this thread. :D

    I've just finished a good book about this topic, Andrea Mcardle and Tanya Erzen (2001), Zero Tolerance: Quality of Life and the New Police Brutality in New York City.
    Why does this remind me about the growing 'anti social behavior' hysteria in the UK? Just last week I read about the case of a 11 year old boy (it's just a child ffs :eek: ) who got arrested and kept in a filthy police cell for over six hours because he and a friend tried to built a tree home in a park! When questioned about the case the force commended the actions of the arresting officer who responded to a complaint from a resident after a series of incidents involving young people and anti-social behavior. "The officer, who attended promptly, regularly patrols the area and was aware of the ongoing problems. I would commend the positive action she took and would hope it acts to deter similar behavior in the future."
    We are talking about a child, who has never been in trouble with the police, who had his tracksuit bottoms removed in case he harmed himself with the cord, who was crying when his Mum came to pick him up because he "needed the toilet but was too afraid to ask."

    The problem I have with the shining example of Giulianis New Yorker 'success' story is that it neglects the other side of the coin. And I am not talking about the problem of police brutality.
    I am talking about the growing poverty in the city, of the over 904,884 New Yorkers who rely on Emergency Food Programs, or soup kitchens and food pantries, each week. I am talking about the fact that the cost of living in NYC has more than doubled since 1980. The number of working poor families has jumped by 84% since the late 1980s (almost 3 times the national increase) (source: Hunger Action Network: Hunger in New York)

    I am talking about a drugs policy that sends far more low-level drug users to prison than violent offenders and is compounded by its discriminatory impact. Prison sentences for drug offenses have been imposed disproportionately on members of racial and ethnic minorities-blacks and Hispanics constitute 94 percent of the drug felons sent to prison but only 31 percent of the state's population. Black men in New York are sent to prison on drug charges at eleven times the rate of white men. The racial disparity in incarceration for drug offenses bears little relation to racial differences in drug offending. Available evidence indicates that whites-who constitute 62 percent of New York residents-use, buy, and sell drugs in proportions that differ little from blacks. In absolute numbers, the total of whites who commit drug offenses exceeds the number of blacks. Yet blacks are more likely than whites to be arrested, convicted, and incarcerated on drug charges, because drug law enforcement efforts target participants in street-level, retail drug transactions in poor-primarily minority-urban neighborhoods. (source: HRW: Collateral Casualties - Children of Incarcerated Drug Offenders in New York)

    Some might argue that this has nothing to do with 'zero tolerance' but I disagree. It's part of the same parcel! It's part of a policy that is based on exclusion. 'Zero tolerance' or 'Broken Window' or 'Quality of Life' won't change anything as long as it does not address the roots of social problems, like poverty, social exclusion, racism and discrimantion...

    And maybe we can start to realize that some 'behavior' might be inconvenient, but that doesn't mean we have to criminalise it. Sure it isn't nice to see an unwashed beggar sleeping on the streets, but should we really deny him his right to exist?
  15. hatboy

    hatboy Banned Banned

    I know, all this is all very well for the folks who conform but if you are someone wrongly accused of being anti-social because you don't quite fit in, then it looks very different. (I'm OK, but some of the people I know are on the other side).

    Also though, to be honest Casper, we do have a problem in this country with teenagers not acknowledging adult authority. Big subject, but to me it is as important to analyze why kids say "fuck you" as it is to enforce a more severe authority on them.

    You can't just legislate to make people "good citizens", people have to believe that being a "good citizen" is worthwhile. If alot of people don't then why is that? Perhaps they've got it sussed that it's all a great big con anyway!

    And of course, who decides what is acceptable behavior and what isn't?

    As I said earlier tho, this current Brixton initiative appears to have some flexibilty and subtlety to it. Fingers crossed eh?

  16. miss minnie

    miss minnie Well-Known Member

    it is all so subjective, no? where some may see pavement cyclists as affable non-conformists to me, who has been injured a few times, they are dangerous and unsociable. so who is right and what is to be done?

    if the police cautioned or fined all pavement cyclists i would think it fair, whereas some may call it heavy-handed.

    i would personally like to see public urinators fined. as they are in amsterdam.

    however, alongside any increase in punitive measures should be an increase in public education. any mother will tell you that punishing a child is useless unless it is accompanied by a decent reason and explanation.
  17. squidlet

    squidlet New Member

    Picking up the 'quality of life' points and the ASB link made by Caspar, there are always exceptions - but the important point about most ASB orders are that they are made against long-term, repeat offenders, often multiple family members, who damage the lives of their surrounding communities. Survey after survey of local tenants / residents have picked up on ASB - and here we're talking about racial abuse, threatening behaviour, severe harassment, and a whole range of environmental damage from grafitti to joy-riding - as the most important thing effecting the quality of life in a neighbourhood. A major study by Scase and Scales ( Regional Futures and Neighbourhood Realities), 2003 picked out 'a friendly neighbourhood' and 'a safe neighbourhood' as the two factors most likely to make people like the area they live in, far above things like access to decent healthcare, schools, transport etc. And if people are scared to be in their neighbourhoods they'll either get out (if they can); disengage as far as the are able; or get involved - which means supporting measures to prevent ASB.

    Whether ASBOs work or not and how they are enforced is another matter. There have been some particularly daft ideas - like stopping housing benefit for offenders (thankfully now dropped). And the remedial and preventative side is critical, but the support needed to change whole-family behaviours is huge and expensive. There are trials of support schemes going on in Sheffield and Dundee, due to be assessed this year I think.

    I'm sure there are always idiocies and abuses as Caspar noted, but I don't think measures to sort out serious anti-social behaviour can be characterise as 'hysteria'. Acting on it is something that communities prioritise.
  18. Elpenor

    Elpenor 01/09/02 - 01/10/05

    We've had a 'telescopic' urinal introduced where I live, Reading, which has partly solved the problem, but only local to where it's situated. They're submerged in the day, and come up about 9pm when town centre's are full of drinkers. The police and local authorities prefer them to public toilets for obvious reasons, you don't get cottaging, people trying to inject and the subsequent neon lights etc...


    Perhaps Lambeth council has plans, or could be lobbied to introduce them?
  19. hatboy

    hatboy Banned Banned

    "For uric acid passed by those waiting for night buses in Trafalgar Square has begun to erode the stone walls of the National Gallery."

    Jesus! The same thing is happening in Brixton. Look for instance at the door to the flats above Satay Bar which is behind the building in Electric Lane. Its rotting away due to pissers.
  20. miss minnie

    miss minnie Well-Known Member

    amsterdam council decided to do something when they discovered that 27% (iirc) of the canal water was urine. :eek:
  21. Gramsci

    Gramsci Well-Known Member

    You have put up some excellant posts Casper.I know have a greater knowledge of the NY policing.Makes me all the more surprised that its being adopted in the UK.

    The "urinal" problem is basically down to the fact that so many were closed in the 80s as cost cutting measures.Some in the West End have been closed due to vandalism.This is due however to the fact that many public toilets dont have a full time attendant anymore.

    In the West End temporary urinals are put out on the weeekends and their is a "telescopic" one at Cambridge Circus.Lambeth could do that here.

    I was looking at an old copy of the Scarman Report.One of his comments was the lack of provision for Youth.20 odd years on and their is still the same lack of it.Before punitive measures like ASBO are brought in the Government could put proper funding into such social provision.

    I have been reading a book by the psychologist Oliver James which argues the lack of properly funded and appropriate childcare childcare and support for struggling parents leads to psychological damage which is hard to reverse.Also the kind of character structure required for the competitative society we live in is inherently anti-social.So those who are not able to access its consumerist wealth and status are not surprisingly considered a problem.Investment in early childcare saves money on dealing with drug problems etc later on.

    Caspers links on growth of those who are homeless and/or in need of soup kitchens does have a parallell here.As part of the new crime initiative in Brixton signs have been going up telling people to give money to St Mungos rather than beggars as St Mungos are working with the Council and police to deal with baggars.Something similar is going on in the West End.Their are arguments of how many homeless/beggars their are in the WE and whether provision for them is adequate.The Governmant view is that their is only a hardcore left who need "tough love".
    Others who work with the homeless say the Government figures are an underestimate.

    I was talking to someone who is homeless.He said what happens is that the police come around and give you a list of hostels and tell you that if they catch you again you will get arrested.He said that their are not enough hostel places and some of them are not very nice.
  22. hatboy

    hatboy Banned Banned

    "I was looking at an old copy of the Scarman Report.One of his comments was the lack of provision for Youth.20 odd years on and their is still the same lack of it.Before punitive measures like ASBO are brought in the Government could put proper funding into such social provision".

    Amen to that!!!! How can the government, Lambeth and other local authorities justify running the few remaining youth facilities on the good will of volunteers?

    Anyone can see the link between teenagers getting into crime and teenagers having nothing to do. The playground/youth club near me (Dexter) is run by one old bloke who doesn't get paid AFAIK. He is inspirational, but why is he not valued by Lambeth? He should be.

  23. hendo

    hendo Fish finger sandwiches

    I can't believe the bloke who runs that playground gets no public money. Will ask around. Scandalous if he does not.

    This has been a highly researched and well argued thread and I can't really add much, save to say that as a local I'm noticing a great deal more officialdom in Brixton.

    More police officers, the appearance of hordes of community support officers (ethnically way more mixed than their police colleagues) and the omnipresent traffic wardens, who i read this weekend are to get more fining powers.

    This has been accompanied by the disappearance of the travel card touts from the front of Brixton Tube (in the weeks before it shut), the drastic reduction in size of the Tate Gardens Drinking Advisory Group and the sudden disappearance of the skunk weed legions.

    Its all evidence of a a joined up approach by agencies which as a resident I welcome.

    And if I may be controversial for a moment, although I respect and admire Brian Paddick for a number of reasons, Brixton wasn't like this under him, was it?
  24. detective-boy

    detective-boy Banned Banned

    Times have changed!

    I think the main change has been the arrival of "hordes of Community Support Officers". As they can do little else they are an almost constant uniformed presence. They have relatively little powers but I am a great believer in the presence being enough to dissuade many from anti-social behaviour.

    They didn't exist when Brian was about - all he could do was try and get as many uniformed police officers out on the street (which he did).

    As for a joined up approach by the different agencies, it is a small step in the right direction but there is still very little liaison between the police/CSOs and the dozens of council traffic wardens.

    One question though: as a CSO costs about 70% as much as a "proper" PC what would you rather this mysteriously available new money had been spent on - 10 CSOs or 7 new PCs with full powers? I'd rather have had the PCs but I must accept that police management would have immediately found an excuse to put them in offices!
  25. Gramsci

    Gramsci Well-Known Member

    I was wondering what has happened to Paddicks policy on Cannabis now Brixton has "Broken Windows".Is this being abandoned?Does anyone know?

    When Paddick was in Brixton his line seemed to be more of one dealing with the local community/"problem solving" policing.Their did seem to be "targeted" arrests based on intelligence gathering rather than blanket policing.

    Their also may be displacement of crime.I had complaints from people that I know that the centre of Brixton is being "cleaned" up and the hard drug problem has moved to their areas.I still see junkies around but they dont hang about central Brixton.I did hear they were using a small park behind Moorlands estate.

    I had no problem with the Tate Garden drinkers.The dealers were/are a pain.They are still around which is irritating.If im going to the library or Ritzy its obvious Im not out to buy stuff.I dont no where the evidence is that this is a "joined up approach".It could be that the drinkers have just been moved on for a while not offered any help.

    Its also winter so their are less people out on the streets due to the fact its cold.I dont no what this new police style will lead to in Summer.Maybe the police/Council think they can "clean" the area up in winter and it will stay that way in Summer.
  26. hendo

    hendo Fish finger sandwiches

    True, Paddick did not have CSOs, and it's logical to conclude that displacement may well have occurred.

    And agreed, Summer will be the acid test of the new policy.

    The TGDAG I had/have a major problem with, as do many of us.
  27. hatboy

    hatboy Banned Banned

    I like some of the dealers, hustlers and drinkers and they like me. Great if a joint agency approach is genuiely helping people in need. But "as a resident" (quoting hendo) I think I should remember not to talk shit about people I haven't met.

    And so should you all IMHO.

    PS Before the big row, I'm not saying anyone is talking shit, just saying be aware that some of the people I know as kind but troubled are the same people others see as low-lifes or a problem.

  28. hendo

    hendo Fish finger sandwiches

    As usual I'm both confounded and impressed by hb's tolerance and inclusive spirit.

    But I can't be alone in thinking that mentally ill alcoholics should be in a safe place receiving treatment rather than sitting in Tate Gardens, and that drug dealers generate problems in an area.

    Or am I?

    As for talking shit about people I don't know, I'm glad you're not accusing me of doing that hb, but am puzzled as to why, if nobody is, you mention it.
  29. hatboy

    hatboy Banned Banned

    So people go "?" in their heads.

    And please understand that I'm not going "oh look at the pictureque people with shitty lives, how quaint", what I am saying is that sometimes discussions on this go "what shall we do about those people over there". I'm just saying, what if you are one of "those people over there".

    I really like to hear "Hey, we are the people over there and this is what we think".
  30. hatboy

    hatboy Banned Banned

    Also, if "drug dealers" always generate problems in an area I'd recommend that everyone reading this never, ever buys drugs from anyone ever again.

    Including Glaxo-Smithkline-Wellcome.


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