Sunday, 20 September 2015

Fixing Liverpool's crime problem

The New Yorker recently ran a feature on Bill Bratton, the former and current Police Commissioner of New York and Los Angeles. Bratton achieved some fame (and notoriety) as an advocate of the 'broken windows' policy which is often credited with bringing crime levels down in New York during Rudi Giuliani's govenorship.

Ever since the big apple experienced a precipitous fall in crimes, a debate has been raging whether the 'broken windows' policy has been a factor, or even the major contributor to this success.


Kirkdale, Liverpool - crime capital in England; image: www.guardian.co.uk

In essence, advocates of the 'broken windows' policy base their support on the slippery slope argument. Small misdemeanours will lead to larger ones, leading from 'victimless' to more serious transgressions. Ignoring offences that are, initially, seen as inconsequential, such as fly tipping or drug dealing, send out a signal to everyone that criminal behaviour may be tolerated too. The 'broken windows' policy is a tool to nip things in the bud, before they can get out of hand. It strengthens the community's resolve to see all types of misdemeanour as harmful to at least one victim: the local community itself.

Whilst I have no evidence either way to decide this debate, I can say on thing with certainty. Living in Liverpool, one of the most deprived areas in Britain with the highest crime rate, I think it is quite irrelevant whether preventing so called 'minor' crimes may lead to a reduction in larger ones too. So far I have still to meet a single resident of, say my current home Kirkdale, who says that tolerating a single 'smaller' or 'victimless' crime leads to high quality of life. No matter of what 'scale' or 'consequence' a crime is, it seems to me that reducing any type of offence will make for a better quality of life.

As Kirkdale (Liverpool) is an area with, on average, more than 600 crimes per month which makes it one of the highest in England (in July the official crime statistics by the government documented a record of 828 crimes in Anfield and Kirkdale), you can take my word for it that tolerance of allegedly 'harmless' drug dealing (and drug deals gone wrong with people being stabbed in front of shop stores) do not add to feelings of high quality of life in the area. To my mind, there is every reason that the local police should try out the 'broken windows' policy in Liverpool.

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