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OpinionColumnistsMark Chiusano

Broken windows enters DA race

The Brooklyn District Attorney's Office says the borough

The Brooklyn District Attorney's Office says the borough had its safest year ever, with a drop in murders and shootings in 2016. Photo Credit: News 12

In a meeting this week with the new group North Brooklyn Progressive Democrats, Acting Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez reportedly said something surprising. According to an attendee, Gonzales said that broken-windows policing “does not keep us safe.” 

Local district leader Nick Rizzo tweeted the charged quote Monday along with a picture of Gonzalez, who took over from the late reformer Ken Thompson last year.

Thompson took steps like limiting prosecutions of low-level marijuana cases, which some activists saw as another nail in the coffin for policing that focuses on quality-of-life crime. But broken-windows policing – the idea that cracking down on petty crimes prevents more serious crime – remains the strategy of the NYPD.

Rizzo says Gonzalez was speaking in the context of warrant reform, noting the many outstanding warrants for often-low-level issues that saddle New Yorkers. But “it was a blanket statement,” says Rizzo.

When asked to clarify Gonzalez’s remarks and beliefs, spokesman Oren Yaniv said only that Gonzalez “feels very strongly that summons warrants don't keep us safe."  

Gonzalez is campaigning for district attorney. Rizzo says the question of whether broken windows keeps us safe is now going to be his litmus test for an endorsement in this year’s DA race.

That question may be important for the mayoral election as well. Mayor Bill de Blasio, who is running for re-election, has been supportive of the policing theory, which grates on many criminal justice activists despite his other reforms. Rizzo says he is “not a single-issue voter” and hasn’t seen a more promising mayoral candidate yet.

Look for the question to keep coming up as campaign season deepens. 

Mark Chiusano is a member of amNew York’s editorial board.


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