Tucson Adopts Bars-on-Windows Policing

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Will Tucsonans finally be shaken out of their apathy?

TUCSON – With its new policing policy, the City of Tucson might become the dystopia that New York City was in the 1980s.

As background, I moved from Phoenix to metro New York in 1981, when the Big Apple was rotting.

Back then, New York was marked by crime, seediness, garbage in the streets, the homeless camped out in public places, code violations galore, subways that resembled the sewer scenes in “Les Misérables,” and the infamous squeegee men, who would spit on the windshields of cars and demand money from drivers to clean the goo.

After acquiring a modicum of fame and fortune, I moved back to Phoenix ten years later for a better quality of life.  Now, for family reasons, I’m living in metro Tucson.

Due to underfunding and below-average pay, the Tucson Police Department is losing police officers to other Arizona cities.  Accordingly, the police chief has announced that the department no longer has the resources to address vagrancy, noise complaints, code violations, public defecation and urination, homeless encampments on public and private property, and outbursts by deranged people in hospitals.

A leading industry in Tucson is the installation of security bars on doors and windows of residences and businesses, due to the city ranking near the top nationally in property crimes.  With the new policing policy, the industry will boom even more.

At the same time, high-paying companies will continue to shun Tucson as a locale for their headquarters or major operations, not only because of the high crime but also the lousy public schools, the rundown condition of roads and public places, the widespread seediness, and the plethora of code and zoning violations.   

Worse, the city’s tragic and self-inflicted poverty rate of twice the national average will remain unabated.

Local conditions are the result of decades of shortsighted government, which in turn is the result of pathological levels of hubris, denial, and provincialism among the city’s establishment.

Tucson needs a Rudy Guiliani. 

A surefire way of being mislabeled as a right-wing nut job is to compliment the former New York mayor, who has since sullied his reputation and become weird.  But the fact is that he took the rot out of the Big Apple.

One of his many measures was the adoption of broken-window policing, a law enforcement strategy that has been vilified in some quarters but was instrumental in making New York one of the safest cities in the nation and in saving countless lives among the poor and disadvantaged.

Broken-window policing is based on the idea that if smaller infractions are left unaddressed, more serious crime will follow, along with a deterioration in the quality of life.

New York and other cities have recently cut police funding and/or rolled back broken-window policing. Violent crime has skyrocketed.  Of 34 cities studied by the Council on Criminal Justice, a think tank, 29 have seen annual increases in homicides, including a 43% increase in New York.

It would be a shame if Tucson has the same experience. But maybe increased crime is necessary to shake Tucsonans out of their apathy and finally reform city government.

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