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Broken store windows remain as members of the Anne Arundel County Police guard the intersection of North Avenue and Pennsylvania Avenue, on April 29, 2015, in Baltimore.
Patrick Semansky—AP

The New York Police Department issued a 41-page report Thursday attributing the city’s low levels of crime to the so-called “broken windows” strategy.

The year-long investigation defends the practice of misdemeanor arrests, Reuters reports — but New York City Police Commissioner Bill Bratton said on Thursday he would reform the practice of focusing on lower-level crimes, which has been called discriminatory by civil rights groups.

“We need a new form of quality-of-life broken windows policing,” he said.

The broken windows theory of policing holds that cracking down on petty crimes such as unruly behavior or vandalism creates a lawful environment that prevents worse crimes from happening. Bratton implemented zero tolerance policies inspired by the theory in New York City during the 1990s, a time when the crime rate dropped precipitously. But critics say that broken windows policing leads to racial profiling and overfilled jails.

The strategy came under scrutiny last summer when Eric Garner died following an incident with NYPD officers in Staten Island. Garner was accused of selling loose cigarettes and was detained by police, setting off weeks of protests over his death.

Similar charges have been made of the Baltimore Police Department following the death of Freddie Gray, who was detained after “making eye contact” with officers and running away. Gray, who died on April 19 from a severed spine, was carrying a switchblade.


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