LA Chief Bill Bratton Puts "Broken Window" Policing Into Action

LA Police Chief Bill Bratton is ready to put his "broken window" policing strategy into action. Bratton has selected three areas of Los Angeles for starters: the Hollywood Strip, McArthur Park and downtown's Skid Row.

The "broken windows" policing strategy "holds that maintaining public order is at least as important as solving crimes and that attacking low-level offenses can reduce fear and prevent more serious offenses."
In Los Angeles, Bratton has not picked easy proving grounds. Hollywood has two-thirds of all prostitution arrests in the city. Skid row is home to the largest concentration of homeless and is in the LAPD division that logged more drug sales arrests than any other last year. The city already has spent millions trying to clean up MacArthur Park, in the middle of a poor, overcrowded, crime-plagued neighborhood.

"Parks are essential to the quality of life in a city," Bratton said. "If the small things are left undeterred, they turn into big things. So the homeless take over a portion of the park. Drug dealers follow. Drug dealers beget violence. It then begins to affect the whole business area and businesses begin to die."

A broken window signals that no one cares, the theory goes. Graffiti, vandalism and prostitution foster fear, and more serious crime follows. "What people see every day generates so much of their fear. Graffiti, homelessness and drug dealers. That's what drives people out of the cities," Bratton said. "It's all about quality-of-life issues."
Apparently, it has been in use selectively the past few months, and crime is already going down in LA. "The LAPD reports crime has begun to drop, following the pattern in New York, which experienced double-digit declines on Bratton's watch." In New York, Bratton went after squeegee users--the guys that used to come up to your car's windshields while you were at a red light and start washing your windows and then asked you for money. In LA, Bratton says, the equivalent are the beggars. With both he says, the issue is "quality of life."
Graffiti, homelessness and drug dealers. That's what drives people out of the cities....Some of it's benign. But it raises the degree of discomfort for the average person."
Bratton has appointed LAPD Capt. Michael Downing his point man to clean up Hollywood, which is plagued by drug sales and protstitutes.
[Downing is ] the man whose job it is to make sure things don't go wrong. The kind of risk-taker and innovator whom Bratton encourages, Downing, as commander of the Hollywood Division, launched "Operation Restore Hollywood" shortly before Christmas.

Narcotics and gang officers joined with a county interagency anti-drug task force, officers and a neighborhood prosecutor to pursue the pushers, many of whom work for the notorious 18th Street gang.

Downing was acting on the chief's philosophy: Bust a drug dealer or snag a tagger and you also may catch a killer. Officers believe they have affected more than drug sales. "Robberies are down 60%," Downing said.
Also on Bratton's list are the street hookers. LA just passed an ordinance allowing the police to seize and sell the soliciting johns' cars.

We haven't even gotten to McArthur Park and Skid Row yet, so go read the rest of this very interesting article for the problems in those areas and Bratton's intended solutions.

The biggest obstacle seems to us to be the lack of financial resources in LA. It's one thing to rid the streets of the homeless by putting them in shelters or giving them a place to live. It's another thing entirely if they are put in jail. Knowing Bratton as we do, we don't think he intends to put the homeless in jail. He's always expressed concern for civil liberties and we have no reason to doubt him.

Right after he took office, Bratton followed through with two previously authorized "massive" skid row sweeps. "An analysis of the resulting 185 arrests shows that violent, dangerous criminals were taken off the streets. Those arrested included violators and fugitives, as well as convicts with multiple offenses such as rape, incest, armed robbery, burglary and assault."

Since another hundred persons were issued citations for minor infractions during these sweeps, we assume, although the article doesn't say, that the sweeps did not result in non-violators being jailed solely for being homeless.

Some are skeptical of Bratton's chances for success. Our money's on him. We're going to keep our eye on the goings on in the LAPD, we'll report here, and if they raise the red flag of civil liberties violations, you'll hear us complain. But right now, as we expected, the Chief is beginning to work his magic for the betterment of LA.

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