How Policing, Community Organizers Help Cut Denver Crime


New York City's policing revolution is 13 years old and by any objective measure a phenomenal success, with major crimes down by 74 percent since 1993, says the Manhattan Institute’s City Journal. Critics say New York’s remarkable turnaround is due not to better policing, but the end of the crack epidemic, the strong economy of the Clinton years, or the number of potential criminals who have not been born since abortion became legal. Now Denver, home to liberal marijuana laws and an electorate that has sent Democrats to the mayor's office in every election since 1963, has in the past year and a half enacted a series of policing reforms based on New York's success, with surprisingly wide support, especially from the city's poor and minority residents.

Denver has instituted Broken Windows and Compstat policing. Major crimes dropped 14 percent from 2005 to 2006, and another 13.7 percent for the first eight months of this year compared with the same period last year. If Mayor John Hickenlooper's reelection this spring with 87 percent of the vote is any guide, popular support remains strong for his policing policies. Who sparked this reform? A group of plucky Hispanic high school kids who wanted their neighborhood safe, a grassroots organization that believes in helping people help themselves, and criminologist George Kelling of Rutgers, a consultant on the project. Hickenlooper, a 55-year-old restaurateur and developer first elected mayor in 2003, had not run as a police reformer. But policing issues forced themselves upon him. The project is helped by a group called Metro Organization for People, with 11 staffers and a $750,000 budget, which works with churches, schools, and youth and neighborhood groups to solve local problems. MOP explains “What is community organizing?” with an expanded (and gender-neutral) version of the Chinese proverb, “If you give a man a fish, you feed him for a night; if you teach a man to fish, you feed him for the rest of his life.”


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