Analysis of broken windows policing in Milwaukee

Essay by bwerkingUniversity, Bachelor's January 2004

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December 3, 2003

Do Not Buy Broken Windows Policing if it Does Not Fit

In 1996 Milwaukee first adopted a "broken windows" policing policy--a zero tolerance approach toward minor public nuisance offenses. The policy was expected to reduce more violent crime rates, but there is no research and it is probably too early to speculate on any correlation between violent crime rates and the increased citations for public nuisance offenses. The zero tolerance policy has reduced many public nuisances, but has created many problems along the way. Milwaukee's departure from problem solving and community policing through its blanket enforcement, throughout metro-Milwaukee, of zero tolerance policing without regards to the unique needs and wants of individual communities has created most of the problems. A quality of life policing strategy is best suited for communities that are concerned with public nuisances and embrace the policy.

Milwaukee's "broken windows" policy, called "quality of life" policing was initiated in late 1996 by the then Police Chief Arthur Jones and Mayor John Norquist.

It was a big change from the strategy of problem solving and community cooperation emphasized by Chief Philip Arreola, Jones' predecessor. Police were now expected to enforce a zero tolerance approach toward minor offenses. Milwaukee's expectation was that attacking chronic disorder problems like public drinking, noise, loitering and vandalism would ultimately reduce all crimes including more violent crimes not targeted by the policy. The zero tolerance policy, very practically, increases the contact between police and petty offenders. This increased interaction allows police more opportunities to apprehend minor offenders who have outstanding warrants--reducing the total number of major offenders on the streets. Theoretically, the zero-tolerance policy is also supposed to reduce crime by sending a message that no crime of any kind will be tolerated in neighborhoods.

Milwaukee's experiment with zero-tolerance policing has...