Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Graffiti Up In New York City


Reflecting the observations of many New Yorkers, the New York Post reports that graffiti is back in New York City streets with a vengeance. Part of the "broken window" strategy of the Giuliani administration involved cracking down on "quality of life" crimes. Instead of previous conventional wisdom that deprioritised these violations of the law, the police under Giuliani treated tackling them as a chance to send a signal to serious criminals that they did not own the streets. The strategy was a success and New York's crime drop vastly outstripped that of the rest of the country.
Ordinary New Yorkers in the outer boroughs report a feeling that some of the lawlessness of the Koch and Dinkins years is slowly creeping back. In many neighborhoods in Brooklyn and Queens for instance, it can not be assumed that the public is patient enough to make sure that crimes are assigned a case number and correctly recorded by the police bureaucracy. Anecdotal evidence that seems common when speaking to locals in Crown Heights seems to point to lost crime reports and official indifference to crimes that would be taken seriously elsewhere.
My fear is that the minorities such as Blacks and Hispanics who benefited most from the drop in crime could be the first to suffer if crime starts going up.
Living in Crown Heights, I see both Blacks and Jews both with strong historical reasons to fear prejudice. Recent incidents in which a Black son of a police officer was allegedly attacked in a case of mistaken identity and Jewish children in a Crown Heights park were robbed by local thugs have heightened tensions between Blacks and Jews . Additionally, reports that police refused to take reports about the robberies in Lincoln Terrace Park at the edge of Crown Heights have heightened distrust of the police by Jews as well.
Hearing the anger of Jewish parents whose children were robbed, I wonder how many Black and Hispanic children were also victimised as well. A united crime watch or parents patrol of the parks might lessen distrust in all corners of the community and make parks safer.
One thing all sections of the Crown Heights Community have in common is the problem of at risk children. There are children in trouble at home and school and possibly flirting with drug substance abuse as well among Jews, Blacks and Hispanics. An idle child of any race is more likely to find trouble than a child who is kept busy in a learning or recreational activity. All of us in Crown Heights need to be honest with ourselves about the need to watch all of our children.
Despite the troubled economic times afflicting our city and country, it would be penny wise and pound foolish to cut back on programs for our youth. Although prejudice has a very real role in aggravating tensions, idleness plays a role as well.
Copyright 2008 by Magdeburger Joe

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