News / City Life

This pop-up looks at the problematic legacy of the NYPD’s broken windows policies

This pop-up looks at the problematic legacy of the NYPD’s broken windows policies
Photograph: Pixabay

When you hear about a pop-up in New York City, you probably think of a temporary storefront in Soho or an Instagram-baiting experience like the Museum of Ice Cream. This fall, a new exhibit from the New York Civil Liberties Union will turn that notion on its head as it digs into one of the city's most pernicious policing strategies: broken windows. 

From September 22–30, the NYCLU's pop-up dubbed the Museum of Broken Windows will set up shop in Greenwich Village. The installation will feature works from artists and activists across the country, all revolving around the “ineffectiveness of broken windows policing, which criminalizes our most vulnerable communities,” organizers noted in a press release.

In a nutshell, the broken windows theory posits that visible signs of crime and dilapidation in a neighborhood like graffiti and public drinking beget more crime. It was notably put into practice in New York City in the 1990s under former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and NYPD police commissioner William Bratton, which led to stricter enforcement of low-level offenses. Advocates of the practice argue that broken windows policies led to a sharp reduction in crime across the city in the early aughts, but subsequent studies have challenged that notion, finding that there is no demonstrable connection between broken windows policing and declines in crime. 

In recent years, though, the city has reeled back on these kinds of practices. Last year, the NYPD announced that it would stop issuing criminal summonses for public drinking and urination, and Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance announced that his office would stop prosecuting subway turnstile jumpers.

Still, the impacts of broken windows policing are still visible today, and the Museum of Broken Windows promises to be an emotional look at how they have affected communities across the five boroughs, particularly those of color. Artists featured at the pop-up include Molly Crabapple, Jesse Krimes, Dread Scott, Hank Willis Thomas and Jordan Webber.

The museum will be open at 9 W 8th St from September 22–30, and entry is completely free. Head to the NYCLU's website for more information as it becomes available. 

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