Bratton recruits ‘broken windows’ author

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George Kelling in Detroit in 2012. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)
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New York Police Commissioner Bill Bratton said today he planned to “retain the services” of George Kelling, who helped articulate the "Broken Windows" theory that was the underpinning of the proactive police strategy that drove crime down dramatically in New York City and around the country.

Bratton made the remarks in Queens after inducting 640 new police recruits into the academy when I asked about his plans for enforcing quality-of-life crimes—something some department critics hoped he would ease.

Bratton said, “We’re in the process of beginning a very comprehensive review of what the department has been doing over the last several years” and that a “plan of action” report should be released in several months.

He also said, “[We’re] probably going to look to retain the services of George Kelling, very well known for the Broken Windows article.”

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Kelling co-wrote a seminal 1982 article in the Atlantic on the Broken Windows theory, along with James Wilson, who died in 2012. The theory holds that minor crimes like vandalism (broken windows) and graffiti, if left unaddressed, can gradually lead to an esclation into more serious crimes. 

“On the quality of life, minor-type offense issues,” Bratton said he wants “to ensure that whatever we do that we are focusing on the behavior, not the individual, the individual status.”

He added, “I’m a great believer that you can stop things from growing into major incidents but it’s very important that you’re stopping them in the correct way. We will be focusing a lot of energy on that in the months ahead.”

Mayor Bill de Blasio has also voiced support for this approach to quality-of-life issues.

Last September, de Blasio told reporters outside of a train station in Manhattan that he believed in the “core notions” of the Broken Windows theory.