An excellent one from New York, regarding liberal failures dealing with criminals, as it spins back to dysfunctionality, essentially dismantling Broken Windows Policing—the most innovative and effective policing strategy first developed in New York City—from City Journal.
The last time Official New York decided that criminals mattered more than civic tranquility, John Vliet Lindsay was mayor and decades of chaos lay ahead. Then came law-and-order types like Rudy Giuliani, George Pataki, and Mike Bloomberg; crackdowns ensued, and peace largely returned to the streets.
Now the pendulum is swinging back to dysfunction. And it public policy in New York increasingly seems driven by the same kind of “turn’em-loose” ethic that animated Lindsay’s administration decades ago.
In Albany, Governor Andrew Cuomo was a motivating force behind the now largely successful effort to exempt 16- and 17-year-olds from felony statutes—the “Raise the Age” movement—with scant regard for the consequences of doing so. Plus, the governor is clamoring to close the Rikers Island jail complex—but without offering a realistic public-safety alternative. While Cuomo is far from alone in endorsing these positions, he brings the prestige of New York’s highest political office to the effort.
At City Hall, Mayor Bill de Blasio has allowed himself to be dragooned into the Close Rikers movement—he initially recognized its practical pitfalls, then moved to capture the spotlight in his characteristically flexible manner. He was also a Raise the Age cheerleader, has demonstrably reduced civility and safety standards in the public schools, flooded the streets with often-aggressive vagrants, signed federal consent decrees that rendered Rikers less safe, and made it far more difficult than it needs to be to protect New York from Islamist terrorism.
And to plop a cherry on all this, eight members of New York’s congressional delegation have joined a who’s who of city political leaders urging parole for Judith Clark, an unrepentant former terrorist now serving time for the murders of two upstate cops and a security guard. (Cuomo started that ball rolling by granting Clark clemency for the murders in January.)
New York’s political leaders also favor sanctuary status for New York—a blatant thumb to the nose for the rule of law and a potential boon to violent illegal aliens statewide. Just last week, a Staten Island judge ruled that the city can indeed destroy all the background documentation for holders of the IDNYC municipal identification card—to make sure that law enforcement can never check up on their immigration status.
While individual motives differ here, one common thread binds the various disciples of dysfunction: by and large, they can insulate themselves from the consequences of the policy changes they’re prescribing. The same can’t be said of the less well-placed, or of New York itself.
For example, former state chief judge Jonathan Lippmann—a boyhood friend and political protégé of the disgraced former speaker of the state assembly Sheldon Silver—chaired the commission that recently urged the shutdown of Rikers Island. Among Lippman’s often-outlandish recommendations was the decriminalization of prostitution as a means of reducing the jail population—a typical call to treat symptoms rather than address antisocial behavior directly. While Lippman may have advanced the idea in good faith, it also came with no apparent awareness of what it might mean for tourism hubs like Times Square, or for marginal outer-borough neighborhoods already struggling with urban pathologies.
This is no small matter. For one thing, tourism is the second-most fruitful segment of the municipal economy; one endangers that industry at the city’s peril. For another, law enforcement has turned a blind eye to street-level prostitution before—in the days when New York was called “Fun City,” even though it was anything but: it was an era obsessed with individual rights, never individual responsibilities, and the imbalance put law-abiding New Yorkers at a too-often-deadly disadvantage.
The move toward greater empathy for the criminal class makes a kind of perverse sense. Individual victims tend to be out of sight, out of mind, and debilitated neighborhoods have no standing in court. But perpetrators are utterly visible, standing front and center before a judge, often with sad stories, and they command attention. It’s understandably human to want to rehabilitate—and so it’s natural that the maladaptive wheel gets the grease, consequences be damned.