“Part of the history of New York City’s revival as a city is that people are safe,” says Greenberg, who has studied the city’s crime data from this period. “Our findings suggest they are much safer, but not because of what the New York Police Department is doing.”
That conclusion, based on a paper recently published in the journal Justice Quarterly, is a pretty jarring one. It challenges widely held narratives of how New York won its war on crime. But it also raises awkward questions about the efficacy of certain police tactics everywhere, particularly “broken windows.” (“It’s a curiosity,” Greenberg adds, “that this name got attached to what the New York Police Department was doing, because the police never went after broken windows”).