BY JORDAN GIBBONS
To kick off Constitution Week at St. John’s University, Brian Browne decided to organize a discussion about the highly-debated topic of broken windows policing.
Browne, assistant vice president of government relations, said the timing was ideal to discuss the theory, considering the death of Eric Garner in Staten Island and the shooting of Michael Brown in Missouri over the summer.
It also involves the fourth and fifth constitutional amendments, which prohibit unreasonable search and seizures without a warrant and requires that felonies can only be tried upon indictment by a grand jury, respectively.
“We want students to have an understanding of their rights,” Browne said.
Last year, to honor the signing of the Constitution on Sept. 17, Browne organized a similar discussion about “stop, question and frisk.”
Broken windows is the criminological theory that maintaining order in urban environments in well-ordered condition may stop further vandalism and help reduce crime. Essentially, it is the idea that cracking down on small, petty crimes will prevent bigger, more serious crime in a community.
The students debating the validity and necessity of the policy were representatives of the College Republicans and the College Democrats.
Matthew Larkins, a senior and member of the College Republicans, said that there is not enough communication in the community and that while the policy may have an effect on crime, there has been an unfair amount of focus on minorities.
“I believe the main issue and the main topic, which we need to focus on, is communication in our neighborhoods and urban communities,” Larkins said. “I believe that the broken windows policy has been effective to where we’ve seen a reduction in crime, but at the same time, we’re seeing more minorities being targeted and feeling somewhat persecuted.”
Daniel Cahill, also a senior and member of the College Republicans, said that the relationship between the community and authorities is a key factor in the situation, as well.
“Community relations is probably the biggest issue when it comes to broken windows in regards to the theory,” Cahill said. “It’s a two-way street. At an early age, in education they should be teaching to respect authority. At the same time, authorities need respect for the community, especially for people of different backgrounds.”
Browne pointed out some statistics to support the theory, even though there are other contributing factors to the drastic reduction in crime in the City.
“Homocide dropped 82 percent, rapes dropped 77 percent,” he said. “New York City is a laboratory of broken windows.”
Both Andrew Taranto and Erica Andriamaherimanana, sophomores and members of the College Democrats, agreed with the main points presented by the Republicans but added a little more skepticism of the policy.
“We have to figure out to what extent this change in policing has had an effect on this change in New York City,” Taranto said.
Andriamaherimanana said that arresting people for small offenses places an unfair burden on the community that is hard to recover from.
“By going after petty crimes, it is detrimental to the community,” she said. “It is harder for formerly incarcerated individuals to find employment.”
Councilman Rory Lancman (D-Hillcrest) was just named the Chair of the new Committee on Courts and Legal Services and made an appearance at the discussion.
“We need to put more police officers on the beat interacting with the public in a regular way,” he said.
Reach Reporter Jordan Gibbons at (718)357-7400 Ext. 123, firstname.lastname@example.org or @jgibbons.