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Zero Tolerance: A Case Study of Police Policies and Practices in New York City

NCJ Number
Crime & Delinquency Volume: 45 Issue: 2 Dated: April 1999 Pages: 171-187
Judith A. Greene
Date Published
17 pages
This study examines the effects of New York City's "zero tolerance" policing policy and compares them with the effects of San Diego's community-policing strategy.
The police reforms introduced in New York City by William Bratton are now hailed by Mayor Rudy Giuliani as the epitome of "zero-tolerance" policing, which involves the strict and aggressive enforcement of all laws in accordance with the methods of traditional policing. Mayor Giuliani credits this strategy for the dramatic reductions in the city's crime rate. While this has been happening, however, citizen complaints filed before the Civilian Complaint Review Board have greatly increased, as have the number of lawsuits that allege police misconduct and the abusive use of force. The declining crime rate that New Yorkers are enjoying has not happened in a vacuum, nor is it as exceptional as some New York officials suggest. Many urban communities across America have experienced similar reductions in crime during the same time period; it is highly likely that there are numerous factors besides zero-tolerance policing that might be contributing to these declines in some of the Nation's largest cities. A comparison of crime rates, arrest statistics, and citizen complaints in New York City with those in San Diego -- where a more problem-oriented community policing strategy has been implemented -- provides strong evidence that effective crime control can be achieved while producing fewer negative impacts on citizens in urban neighborhoods. 2 tables, 9 notes, and 22 references