When Rudy Giuliani ran for mayor of New York City in 1993, he campaigned on a platform of bringing down crime and making the city safe again. It was a comfortable position for a former federal prosecutor with a tough-guy image, but it was more than mere posturing. Since 1960, rape rates had nearly quadrupled, murder had quintupled, and robbery had grown fourteenfold. New Yorkers felt like they lived in a city under siege.
Throughout the campaign, Giuliani embraced a theory of crime fighting
called "broken windows," popularized a decade earlier by James Q. Wilson
and George L. Kelling in an influential article in The Atlantic.
"If a window in a building is broken and is left unrepaired," they
observed, "all the rest of the windows will soon be broken." So too,
tolerance of small crimes would create a vicious cycle ending with
entire neighborhoods turning into war zones. But if you cracked down on
small crimes, bigger crimes would drop as well.
the election, and he made good on his crime-fighting promises by
selecting Boston police chief Bill Bratton as the NYPD's new
commissioner. Bratton had made his reputation as head of the New York
City Transit Police, where he aggressively applied broken-windows
policing to turnstile jumpers and vagrants in subway stations. With
Giuliani's eager support, he began applying the same lessons to the
entire city, going after panhandlers, drunks, drug pushers, and the
city's hated squeegee men. And more: He decentralized police operations
and gave precinct commanders more control, keeping them accountable with
a pioneering system called CompStat that tracked crime hot spots in