A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006. Now a Popeyes fast food restaurant on Google Maps.

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Entry from March 24, 2005
"Broken Windows" is a theory of policing that says you go after the little things (e.g., "squeegee men") and it will help you take care of the big things (e.g., murder rate).

COMPSTAT and CAPSTAT are two statistical programs that have been helping to process the computer records of the police and other departments.


In the past several years, the New York City Police Department has departed from the traditional wisdom of police management. Instead we have modified conventional community policing ideology by recognizing that in order for this department to be effective in reducing crime and in responding to the needs of communities, many operational decisions should be made by commanders at the precinct level. Precinct commanders are in a far better position than Headquarters executives to appreciate and meet the particular needs of their communities and to direct the efforts of the 200 to 400 officers they manage. They are also in a better position than beat officers to understand and harmonize the agency's policies with the social dynamics operating within their geographic compass. To operationalize this, the NYPD's policies were revised to empower precinct commanders. Significantly expanded was their authority, responsibility and discretion as well as the degree of control they exercise over personnel and other resources. Conversely, the natural corollary of that expanded authority, responsibility and discretion is increased accountability.

This Department began conducting weekly Crime Control Strategy Meetings as a means to increase the flow of information between the agency's executives and the commanders of operational units, with particular emphasis on the flow of crime and quality of life enforcement information. In the Department vernacular, these briefings are referred to as COMPSTAT (Computerized Statistics) meetings, since many of the discussions are based upon the statistical analyses contained within our weekly CompStat Report. These meetings are an integral facet of a comprehensive interactive management strategy which enhances accountability while providing local commanders with considerable discretion and the resources necessary to properly manage their commands.


The Citywide Accountability Program (Capstat) is a program designed to enhance both internal performance-based management and public accountability through the Internet for City agencies. Based on the CompStat system developed by the Police Department and the TEAMS system used by the Department of Correction, the Capstat approach to performance evaluation defines areas of accountability for all levels of management. Achievement of stated goals and objectives is pursued through analysis of a set of performance indicators.

15 March 1992, San Francisco Chronicle, "Society" by John Leo, pg. 5:
Likely answer: The cities are displaying a significant shift in public attitudes. This shift is strongly in the direction of the "broken window" theory of social decay.

The theory was outlined in a 1982 article in The Atlantic by political scientist James Q. Wilson and criminologist George Kelling. It says this: The key to social decay is a rising level of disorder that residents fail to challenge in time. When broken windows are not fixed, when graffiti and uncollected garbage become regular features and winos begin to doze off on stoops and sidewalks, a powerful signal goes out that the residents of the area have ceased to care about conditions. This leads to a break in morale and a feeling that events are out of control. Landlords don't make repairs. Vandalism spreads. The stage is set for prostitutes, druggies and criminals to drift in, and the neighborhood goes under.

The broken-window theory is largely upheld by a book, "Disorder and Decline," a study of 40 urban neighborhoods by Wesley Skogan, professor of political science at Northwestern. But mayors and councilmen and city administrators haven't needed to wait for academic proof. More and more, they grasp the idea intuitively. That's why Los Angeles is trying to keep up with the flood of graffiti, why Philadelphia businessmen spent so much money to get the litter out of an 80-block downtown area, and why New York spent tens of millions of dollars to wipe graffiti from its subway system and keep it out.

Minor battles. The major lesson of the broken-window theory is that the crucial battles to save a neighborhood must be fought over apparently minor social infractions, well below the threshold of police response. By the time the offenses are great enough to justify police time and effort, the struggle is often lost.

16 June 1996, Boston Globe, pg. 16:
In an interview last year, Bratton said he and the mayor took their inspiration on this point from a 1982 Atlantic Monthly article by Wilson titled "Broken Windows." Wilson, then a sociology professor at Harvard, cited an experiment in Palo Alto, Calif., in which a car was abandoned on the street. For days, nothing happened to the car. Then, the experimenter broke one of its windows. Almost instantly, vandals stripped the car down to its frame.

The moral seemed clear: Let a neighborhood deteriorate a little bit and it will soon decay a lot.

Bratton ordered the police to arrest, book and interrogate anyone creating disorder. He and, increasingly, many criminologists believe such practices are a major reason for the dramatic decline in serious crimes over two years.

But Bratton had a pragmatic reason for pursuing this strategy as well. "People who commit small crimes also commit big crimes," he said. Or, if they don't, they often know people who do.

Bratton resigned in March, but his successor, Howard Safir, has continued the strategy.

13 September 1996, Crime Control Digest, pg. 1:
NYCPD's "Compstat" Program Named Finalist in 1996 Innovation Awards

6 December 1996, Crime Control Digest, pg. 7:
NYCPD's "Compstat" Wins Award

31 December 1996, Law Enforcement News, pg. 1:
The NYPD And Its Compstat Process

29 August 2001, New Voice of New York, Inc., pg. 9:
Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani last Wednesday unveiled the Citywide Accountability Program (CAPSTAT), a data-driven management system, in eighteen key city agencies. CAPSTAT was modeled after the invent and highly successful Compstat program the New York City Police Department. The Mayor also launched a new Internet Web site that provides timely updates and postings of statistical indicators for the public to review and to gauge the performance and effectiveness of each of the eighteen agencies.

"The CAPSTAT program is the next generation of Compstat, which proved to be an enormously successful management toll in the Police Department," Mayor Giuliani said. "Compstat provided police executives and managers with the ability to accurately pinpoint key areas in a timely manner that either met or fell short of the agency's goal and objectives. The CAPSTAT program promises to do the same for all eighteen city agencies that are now also on- line. This program also furthers this Administration's goal of creating a more transparent form of government that is widely accessible to the general public. I would expect that this revolutionary new approach to management in the city's agencies will be continued by future administrations."

27 December 2001, Wall Street Journal, pg. A12:
A brand new report from the indispensable Manhattan Institute chronicles these law-and-order achievements and explains what made them possible. The report, titled "Do Police Matter? An Analysis of the Impact of New York City's Police Reforms," is co-authored by criminologists George Kelling and William Sousa. Back in the 1980s, Mr. Kelling and political scientist James Q. Wilson formulated the "broken windows" theory of policing, which holds that minor offenses matter. Left unattended, these acts -- graffiti-scrawling, prostitution -- can lead to more serious crimes as perpetrators sense a tolerance for disorder in certain areas.

"Broken windows" began under Mr. Giuliani's predecessor in the early 1990s. But it was not fully implemented until William Bratton, Mr. Giuliani's first Police Commissioner, took over in 1994. The results have been both significant and consistent. As misdemeanor enforcement increased, violent crime decreased. According to the study, an estimated 60,000 violent crimes were prevented between 1989 and 1998 because of "broken windows" policing.

Under Mr. Giuliani, the New York Police Department also instituted a major organizational change. Known as Compstat, the new process provided the central command with sophisticated crime-tracking intelligence even as it devolved to individual precinct commanders the authority to make the tactical decisions necessary to respond. In return for this independence, commanders were held accountable for what happened in their precincts. The result? Local responses to local problems.

"Compstat was perhaps the single most important organizational/administrative innovation in policing during the latter half of the 20th century," the authors conclude. So successful has this policy been that police departments nationwide have copied it.

28 April 2004, New York Times, pg. A1:
In the mid-1990's, a new management program called Compstat shook up the New York Police Department. Detectives stopped working 9-to-5 and started working at the hours when most crimes occur. Crime statistics, once compiled every few months, were updated and mapped weekly. Commanders who displayed a feeble grasp of their precincts' problems were summarily replaced. Crime rates raced downward, outpacing a national decline.

Since then, the gospel of New York-style policing -- specialized units, statistics-driven deployment, and a startling degree of hands-on leadership -- has been spreading throughout the country. So have the people who personify those tactics, a diaspora of zealous former New York Police Department officers who have gone on to lead other departments.

Some of the dozen or more in this wave of New York exports are well known, like John F. Timoney in Miami and William J. Bratton in Los Angeles. But further from the public eye, New Yorkers have been remolding departments one by one, from crime-plagued midsize cities like Baltimore down to Newton, Mass., a bedroom community near Boston whose police force numbers about one-half of 1 percent of New York's 37,000 officers.

Posted by Barry Popik
Names/Phrases • Thursday, March 24, 2005 • Permalink

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