‘Defund the Police’ Breaks Windows in Baltimore

As I have recently said, look for an eventual shift away from “defund the police” rhetoric (which is already fading) toward a renewed emphasis on “law and order” in response to rising crime rates, and with a move toward the creation of a national police force, which will allegedly be more inclusive, diverse, non-racist, etc, etc, etc.  The national police force will be touted as not only diverse and civil rights-friendly, but necessary to control right-wing terrorism. This is may not happen right away. It may take a number of years. But I suspect it will be on the way eventually. I don’t necessarily think there will be a return to the model of “law and order” that emerged during the “broken windows policing” era (not there should be).

The next wave of police statism will more likely involve the empowerment of the social services and regulatory bureaucracy (e.g. Child Protective Services, building inspectors, health inspectors, etc. etc)  to micromanage the poor, with the social worker cops being backed up by federal paramilitary police (like DHS and ATF) and state/local SWAT teams (who will become increasingly nationalized over time). Biden’s recent ban on Menthol cigarettes is an example. Clearly, this was meant as an attack on the lifestyles of the poor, but the method used was hyperregulation rather than outright criminalization. But what if folks decide they want to want and sell Menthol cigarettes anyway? Well, they can always make their own or smuggle bootlegged Menthols. And what will be the “progressive” response? Send in the ATF, of course.

Over at City Journal, Stephen J.K. Walters has a fascinating piece about the ongoing crime wave in Baltimore. As he notes, “Since 2011, nearly 3,000 Baltimoreans have been murdered—one of every 200 city residents over that period” (emphasis added).

At least one reason for that astonishing statistic is the failure to properly implement what’s often regarded as a conservative idea: broken-windows policing. Walters writes:

Chief William J. Bratton implemented the Broken Windows theory-inspired community-policing methods pioneered by social scientists George Kelling and James Q. Wilson, who understood how small manifestations of disorder could grow to larger ones. Minor offenses that made residents feel unsafe or hinted at acceptance of violence were addressed in order to improve quality of life, strengthen communities, and prevent serious crime.

In Baltimore, however, Broken Windows was misunderstood and misapplied. It mutated into a malignant variant, “zero tolerance” policing—and BPD conduct became not just intolerant but unfocused and excessive. As David Simon, a veteran Baltimore crime reporter and creator of HBO’s The Wire, summed things up, [former mayor Martin] O’Malley “tossed the Fourth Amendment out a window and began using the police department to sweep the corners and rowhouse stoops and [per Norris] ‘lock up damn near everyone.’” That sometimes even included Wire crew members on their way home from a long day of filming.

After broken-windows had mutated into something too authoritarian, Baltimore then swung hard in the other direction, defunding their police and decreasing prosecutions of non-violent infractions. The result, or at least the backdrop, has been a torrential explosion of crime in a city already ravaged by poverty and violence. (For further reading on this, check out the excellent New York Times Magazine piece “The Tragedy of Baltimore.”)


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