Impact of Quality-of-Life Policing on Arrest and Arrestee Characteristics in New York City

Freda Solomon, New York City Criminal Justice Agency

By the early 1990s the New York City criminal justice system was embarking on a new era. New initiatives were begun that focused on different types of approaches to community crime issues. For law enforcement, a rapidly expanding police department, aided by new technologies, and a new philosophical perspective, would dramatically shift its policies, deployment strategies and tactics. Using as its ideological underpinnings the belief in an interrelationship between disorder, fear and crime, policing in NYC in the mid-1990s began to emphasize enforcement of laws regulating conduct that was seen as harming community quality of life. The result was far more than just an enormous increase in arrests for behaviors statutorily defined in the state penal laws and city ordinances as being of misdemeanor or lesser severities. This paper reports on research about the changed nature of arrest and arrestee characteristics as a result of these policing initiatives. Using two datasets, one from 1989 and 1998, the research compares case and defendant characteristics in prosecuted non-felony arrests before and after the quality-of-life policing initiative in New York City.

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Updated 05/20/2006