Document Type

Essay

Publication Date

2007

Center/Program

Columbia Center for Contemporary Critical Thought

Abstract

The pattern of misdemeanor marijuana arrests in New York City since the introduction of broken windows policing in 1994 – nicely documented in this issue in Andrew Golub, Bruce Johnson, and Eloise Dunlap's article (2007) – is almost enough to make an outside observer ask: Who thought of this idea in the first place? And what were they smoking?

By the year 2000, arrests on misdemeanor charges of smoking marijuana in public view (MPV) had reached a peak of 51,267 for the city, up 2,670% from 1,851 arrests in 1994. In 1993, the year before broken windows policing was implemented, a New York City police precinct made, on average, 10 MPV arrests per year; by 2000, the police precincts were averaging 644 MPV arrests per year – almost 2 arrests per day per precinct. These misdemeanor MPV arrests accounted for 15% of all felony and misdemeanor arrests in New York City in 2000. That same year, New York City marijuana arrests represented 92% of the total 67,088 marijuana-related arrests in the state of New York (Golub et al., 2007).

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