Broken Windows Policing Strategy Needed in Chicago, Garry McCarthy Says

By Quinn Ford on March 11, 2013 12:34pm 

  Police Supt. Garry McCarthy told reporters Monday a new ordinance to be proposed at the next City Council meeting will make those who disregard some tickets subject to arrest.
Police Supt. Garry McCarthy told reporters Monday a new ordinance to be proposed at the next City Council meeting will make those who disregard some tickets subject to arrest.
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Getty Images/ Scott Olson

CHICAGO — Police Supt. Garry McCarthy wants Chicago to adopt a New York-style "broken windows" police strategy, giving cops the power to arrest scofflaws who ignore tickets for routine offenses like public urination and drinking.

McCarthy on Monday said an ordinance to be proposed at the next City Council meeting would apply specifically to those written up for public urination, public consumption of alcohol and gambling. He called these tickets "quality of life enforcement."

McCarthy said 65 percent of tickets for the offenses are ignored, and the new ordinance would make anyone who ignores the violations subject to arrest. 

"That will change the behavior of the criminal who previously threw that ticket away," the former New York cop told reporters Monday at an unrelated press conference.

New York city in the 1990s famously employed a "broken windows" police strategy under then-Mayor Rudy Giuliani, aggressively going after criminals for minor violations under the theory it would lead to a reduction in more serious crimes. Fixing broken windows, the theory goes, sends a message that a city means business on all aspects of community life.

The popularity of the approach faded, though, amid criticism that New York cops became too aggressive.

In Chicago now, ignoring the tickets for minor offenses brings civil, not criminal implications. That should change, he said.

"John Q. Citizen will pay his ticket and not sit on his front porch and drink beer," McCarthy said. "But if the broken windows theory holds any water, then it's not John Q. Citizen who's behavior we're trying to change. It's the criminal who does it every day."

"Fixing the little things prevents the bigger things," he said.

McCarthy said gambling, public urination, and public consumption of alcohol the three of the top complaints that come from city residents. 

Ald. Emma Mitts (37th), who represents the city's Austin neighborhood, said Monday she thought the proposal is a good idea.

"Wrong is wrong," Mitts said. "You let them get away with this and now look what we have."

Mitts said if criminals can get away with minor crimes like drinking in public, they then believe they can get away with more violent crimes.

McCarthy said the change, which would apply to what are known as administrative notices of violation, is "really common sense."

He compared it to the city's new approach to dealing with marijuana, which gave police officers the option of writing someone a ticket or making an arrest. City officials claimed that change would free up time for officers to prevent more dangerous crimes.

McCarthy's comments came at a press conference touting the takedown of two "gang-controlled drug markets" on the city's West Side.

In one bust, 12 people were arrested in connection with the dealing of heroin out of a liquor store in the city's Humboldt Park neighborhood, police said. The drug sales were controlled by the Four Corner Hustlers gang, police said.

McCarthy said police and the Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection shut down the liquor store for "facilitating the narcotics sales." 

"This is an example of the consequences of enabling or ignoring criminal activity," McCarthy said.

Cmdr. James O'Grady, who heads the narcotics division, said workers at the store, Nickel Liquors in the 3600 block of West Division, ignored blatant drug deals taking place inside the store. O'Grady said the store is infamous for allowing drug dealing.

O'Grady said the drug dealers moved into the store from outside because of the weather.

"It got cold," O'Grady said.

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