As violent crime has receded across New York City, arrests are near historic highs, driven by a controversial imperative that no offense is too minor for police officers to pursue, says the New York Times. The death of a Staten Island man after officers tried to arrest him for peddling cigarettes is intensifying scrutiny of the unflagging police push to arrest people over the most minor offenses. The Police Department reported 394,539 arrests last year. That is tens of thousands more than in 1995, when there were three times as many murders and the department was in its early embrace of the “broken windows” strategy, which sees enforcement of low-level offenses as effective at preventing more serious crime.
William Bratton, the man who brought “broken windows” policing to New York in the 1990s, is once again the police commissioner and is carrying on the department's focus on so-called quality of life crimes that he considers the seeds of more serious disorder. “I think we need to look at whether we still need these arrests,” said Eric L. Adams, the Brooklyn borough president and a former police captain, referring to the Staten Island case. “This is a good moment,” he said, “to re-evaluate what comes after 'broken windows,' now that the windows are no longer broken.” After the death in Staten Island, Mayor Bill de Blasio said that if citizens were complaining about the sale of cigarettes, the police were right to enforce the law.