Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space

"A community’s physical form, rather than its land uses, is its most intrinsic and enduring characteristic." [Katz, EPA] This blog focuses on place and placemaking and all that makes it work--historic preservation, urban design, transportation, asset-based community development, arts & cultural development, commercial district revitalization, tourism & destination development, and quality of life advocacy--along with doses of civic engagement and good governance watchdogging.

Friday, March 29, 2019

Broken windows/collective efficacy: Baltimore; Newark; Grand Junction, Colorado; Pittsburgh; Albany

EE called our attention to the cover story on Baltimore, published two Sundays ago in the New York Times Magazine, "The Tragedy of Baltimore."

Baltimore.  The article was very disturbing.  The description of the post-Freddie Gray riots and the rapid rise in crime and murders in Baltimore reminded me of what it was like living in Washington, DC and specifically the H Street NE neighborhood back in the late 1980s and early 1990s when the city was faced with the scourge of crack and a rapid increase in murders--over 400 per year for many years.

Where I lived was a few blocks from Union Station and a bit more than one mile to the US Capitol and to Downtown, but by happenstance, it was also just a few blocks away from one of the city's primary open air drug markets, and in an 18-month period, there were 30 murders.

It was a terrible period for me personally.  My then wife was assaulted, we had a car stolen, our house was burglarized multiple times, and after the breakup of our marriage, I got mugged a number of times (hurt a bit but I always managed to get away and never lost anything, not my wallet not my bike).

It was living under siege.

Interesting, the article ascribes the riots, and even the death of Freddie Gray, to a number of poor decisions and choices by the police department, the State's Attorney's Office (who in advance of the arrest of Freddie Gray, asked the department to increase patrols in the Sandtown-Winchester neighborhood), under trained police officers and the failure of the State of Maryland to provide the police department with back up officers in the period of unrest after Gray's death and before the onset of riots a few days later.

Broken windows versus collective efficacy theory.  My primary response to the article concerned how in the past I had scorned collective efficacy theory (ironically, one of the leaders in this school is Robert Sampson, who is speaking next week at American University) in favor of "broken windows theory" and how I had been wrong and missed the point.

I believe in the concept of broken windows theory, which is that by addressing disorder -- vacant houses, crime spots, litter, abandoned cars, etc. -- communities end up being better able to manage and reduce crime.

-- "The state of "broken windows" versus "problem oriented policing" strategies in 2016: Part 1, theory and practice," 2016
-- "The state of "broken windows" versus "problem oriented policing" strategies in 2016: Part 2, what to do"
-- "Night-time safety: rethinking lighting in the context of a walking community," 2014
-- Crime prevention through environmental design and repeated burglaries at the Naylor Gardens apartment complex," 2013

The thing about the original theory is that it was also about investing in the community, but for the most part, police departments abandoned that element of the approach, and focused on what came to be called "zero tolerance policing," and the arrest of people at the merest provocation -- not having a fastened seatbelt, a broken tail light -- including rampant "stop and frisk."

The basic idea behind collective efficacy is that communities that are more organized and active, despite income and other demographics, are supposed to be better at warding off crime and disorder, without necessarily more policing, and even in low income areas.

To me, the data on this is mixed.

Which is why I was, I hate to say, derisive ("Urban Health, Nasty Cities, Broken Windows, and Community Efficacy," 2008).

But I missed the point.

Not either/or but and/and.  One of the factors acknowledged by Professor Patrick Sharkey's book discussing the decline of crime in major cities is collective efficacy ("NYU professor's book traces the decline of crime in U.S. cities since the '70s," New York Daily News).

What I failed to acknowledge is that focusing on the defense of Broken Windows wasn't the point -- and I had first hand experience from my H Street neighborhood.

Instead, I should have been considering the fact that how bad things could be, that the neighborhoods and community organizations were functioning at all was a miracle.

This is especially true for low income neighborhoods, which for a variety of reasons, have fewer resources, fewer functioning community organizations, and less of a sense of collective trust.  Also a lot more direct experience with all kinds of trauma.

The real point is that neighborhoods under siege need even more investments in community organizations, neighborhood improvement, and the like.

Likely collective efficacy surveys would find more positive results commensurate with increased investment in social infrastructure.

Newark.  Yesterday's NYT has an article ("'Newark's Original Sin' and the Criminal Justice Education of Cory Booker") on Presidential hopeful Cory Booker, now a Senator from New Jersey and formerly the Mayor of Newark.  Much of the article discusses his record on addressing crime.

While the city was successful at reducing crime and the murder rate, it was more focused on a zero tolerance policing strategy, although it was called "broken windows," and eventually the city submitted to a consent decree with the US Department of Justice over overzealous execution of policing to the point where people's civil rights were frequently violated.

Broken Windows and Collective Efficacy Theories need to marry.  Again, I believe that Broken Windows theory has been transmogrified from its origins.  Had it been paired more overtly with collective efficacy theory as a way to implement the community investment side of the equation, it would have worked better and generated less opprobrium.

Granted, police departments aren't always the best agency out there to implement community investment programs.  But there are exceptions:

-- "Los Angeles police department "Community Safety Partnership"," 2014

Grand Junction, Colorado.  The Grand Junction Sentinel has a great article ("We got our neighborhood back: Targeted areas see a drop in crime") about a targeted crime reduction effort in Mesa County.

The program focuses on places of frequent incidence of crime, and in addition to arrests provides and coordinates the provision of other resources in a Broken Windows fashion to make the changes permanent.

Pittsburgh and Albany.  Other articles on the East Liberty neighborhood in Pittsburgh ("How community-led renovation is helping a rundown Pittsburgh neighbourhood fight crime," Guardian), and the difficulty of making new investments in weak market neighborhoods ("In Albany, struggling neighborhoods face uphill battle to improve: Local couple faced many hurdles trying to build in low property value area," Albany Times-Union) provide other insights into the advantages of such approaches, but also demonstrate the difficulty of making new private sector investments in such communities, because the cost of new construction exceeds the value of existing properties.

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At 9:01 AM, Anonymous charlie said...

Great writing.

I suspect the author has the same point as you -- that you need "All of the above".

The analogy to 1990s DC is also true is that you see a complete breakdown in political leadership. Baltimore needs the same purge as what happened in DC.

(Hell, DC needs the same purge as the Council is making the same level of mistakes as in the 1990s -- free Circulator, free metro rides, etc).

My GF got her ass grabbed by a homeless guy last night trying to sneak in behind her at Judicary square. Went to the station manager, who proceeded the wave the guy into the system. Of course she left and took an uber home. She was not delighted when I told her that it isn't a crime anymore.

The decline in transit use nationwide is also a symptom.

I was quite certain DC would decent into chaos 2009 during the financial crisis; was clearly wrong about that. And while we are having a large post-Ferguson bump in crime there are other trends keeping it in place.

At 6:49 AM, Anonymous h st ll said...

no love for police over here but somehow (during the Jussie saga i believe) i staggered onto this incredible resource:

excellent, excellent resource if you want to understand the police officer mentality. kind of sick but also makes a lot of it make sense. basically they aren't going to be doing any proactive policing, traffic stops anything except respond to service calls after the fact (bc they feel they will be unjustly accused of shooting someone in a dangerous situation and "the community" (as they say) doesn't want it). so basically the Ferguson effect is real and police aren't gonna do shit to combat crime until "the commmunity" wants stronger policing and won't hold the word/treatment of "thugs" (again their words not mine) as higher than that of law enforcement. i don't know that there is a solution!

At 9:21 AM, Anonymous charlie said...

We have the advantage/disadvantage in DC that the US Attorney isn't subject to political pressure.

Which means sentences are not being handed out until you kill someone.

The police are very aware of that.

I was involved in stopping someone stealing packages 2017; at the time he already had 4+ arrests for theft including one with a knife. Since 2017, based on conversations with the AUSA handling the case he has been arrested twice more. I am sure he NOT in jail at this point.

Collective effiicacy also means understanding that some people need to be locked up.

At 1:54 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

charlie -- my concerns go out to your GF. I get so pissed off around here when people get harassed on the street -- this can be an issue of people walking from the Metro on Blair Road etc., and the police say unless there is touching, it doesn't meet the legal definition of assault.

That makes no sense to me.

I would also contact Transit Police. I can't believe that is what is supposed to happen. E.g., a couple months ago I contacted them about habitual loiterers taking over a bus shelter on the 800 block of Upshur St. NW. While the problem still persists, they are regularly checking the shelter and the people move on for a bit at least.

Anyway, when I was on grand jury duty, we did deal with some cases involving transit police undercover on buses. Not in stations. But it's worth trying to push them on it.

cf.... the whole Bratton thing with transit police in NYC first!

And something that sucks is that the Transit Police don't have a high profile, don't do a lot of community outreach, etc., but there needs to be a way to interact with them other than a webform.

2. wrt package theft. @#$%^&*( G*D*! e.g., the article in the paper a couple days ago about arresting someone that they attributed at least 21 thefts too. From the "problem oriented policing" standpoint, I remember reading an article almost 30 years ago in Chicago Magazine (I thought I was gonna move there so I subscribed) about a couple of police precincts and how they studied them and figured out most crime was committed by 5% of the suspects.

I do hate the s*** of letting people commit lots and lots of "minor" crimes and then hitting them hard once they cross the line.

3. And the interesting thing about the article about Newark as well as Baltimore is that community residents who maybe are "unwoke" but who are what I used to call myself back in the early 1990s as "inner city progressives" whose knee jerk liberal politics (e.g., f* the police) were mediated by the real life experience (a/k/a "lived experience") of living in the inner city, want policing, want criminals locked up, want to live in safe places.

4. wrt post-crash, by then DC had reached critical mass of higher income "urban pioneers" and I think at some level that provides some self-replicating behavior for housing demand in the quality neighborhoods. Combine that with an increased demand for urban living as well and it's a strong 1-2 combination.

The thing is that now (e.g., Patterson saying the proposed 2020 budget isn't sustainable) you can get away with low vision leadership for awhile, but it builds up and becomes susceptible to exogenous shocks. That's probably what we're moving towards.

I don't write about it too much because I keep trying unsuccessful to get DCG jobs.

5. There's the whole trope about the need for party competition because the Dems get complacent. There is something to be said for political competition, but Patrick Mara is never gonna do it for me. It's not like DC has some John Lindsay/Mick Cornett/Jim Brainard types. I was gonna write a piece about Michael Bekesha, who ran as a Republican against Charles Allen in Ward 6, but I just couldn't do it given that he works for Judicial Watch.

But yes, we need some form of competition. I don't think my idea of two councilmembers per ward, so at least there are multiple political networks in a ward, is enough.

At 2:01 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

h st ll -- great resource, I'll have to check it out.

Yes there is tension between the police as warriors and police as occupiers and police as social workers.

It's a tough job.

Years ago I wrote a piece about the transit agency president as needing to recognize that he had to have a public persona and a communications strategy.

The same goes for police chiefs. But this is tough because they serve a mayor. E.g., how Giuliani fired Bratton because of all the positive press that Bratton got.

I don't think the current DC chief has done a good job of trying to articulate this. He comes across as whining about the bad guys. Not that this idea of and/and/and is easy to express.

I think if they got behind supporting investments in social infrastructure and focused policing (CPTED + the equivalent of the LA Community Safety Partnership) and more strategic policing in the bad area, it would be better.

2. Separately, in the same Thursday issue of the NYT piece about Booker, there was a key article that explained for me the rise in murder rates.

The DC chief has been talking about this, that there is basically the same rate of shootings but more deaths.

The article was about caliber size and a rise in the use of more lethal bullets. It's like the thing with car-pedestrian crashes and speed. The faster the car the greater the likelihood of injury and death.

The same goes for bigger caliber bullets.

At 7:17 AM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

cf. about "descent"

Turkey's local elections, the biggest cities went to the opposition.

From the article:

"Any longstanding departure from the principles of good governance – which includes the degradation of the rule of law, transparency and accountability, as well as political and economic freedoms – will exact first an economic and then inevitably a political price. That is the shock that came to the surface last Sunday."

2. Lightfoot vs. Preckwinkle

it mattered that various corruption issues came up and Preckwinkle is chair of the Cook County Democratic Party

3. Pugh in Baltimore.

Will she be forced to resign? Not that you can justify Sheila Dixon's use of gift cards bought to give to impoverished families, but the amount was less than $2,000 total, whereas Pugh has sold more than $500,000 of books to UMMS and $100,000+ to Kaiser-Permanente.

At 10:27 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

Interesting program, the CSU Fullerton police department has student "community service officers" who walk people home at nite, report suspicious activity, and monitor the campus emergency phone system.

Plus, as mentioned in other entries, Fullerton Police Dept. changed significantly as a result of officers killing a homeless/mentally ill person, and the settlement afterwards. It led to a significant reshaping and retraining of the department, along with annual evaluation and reporting on the changes.


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