For a quarter century, in police departments on both coasts, New York City Police Commissioner William Bratton has made a name for himself based largely on a “broken windows” theory of policing, an aggressive approach to maintaining order by pursuing low-level offenses like vandalism as a means of preventing serious crime, says the New York Times. In his return to New York from Los Angeles, he is searching for ways to apply that same playbook, developed in the high-crime early 1990s, to a safer city where many have never known it any other way. The city is a vastly different place from the one Bratton knew in the 1990s. In 1994, his first year as police commissioner, there were 17,422 robberies in Manhattan alone and 1,561 homicides across the city. This year through Sunday, there have been just over 7,000 robberies citywide and 123 killings. Bratton, 66, is not veering from his focus on low-level offenses. Rather he is doubling down, although for different reasons.
If two decades ago he championed the zealous pursuit of subway fare beaters, he did so partly because it led to the arrest of more serious criminals. Now his attention to minor offenses is more about banishing the specter of disorder. Shootings are up 11 percent so far this year to 456, an increase that has been seized upon by his critics, and those of the mayor. Bratton spoke with evident frustration at how each uptick in violence has been treated as evidence that public safety was slipping. “That's something that we had to address and the mayor has to continually keep addressing because everybody is still waiting and watching,” he said. “God forbid we had 30 more shootings than we had last year,” he added. “People tend to forget what this place looked like in the 1990s.”