Recently, Central North Side residents concerned about several shootings in recent months met with Zone 1 Comander RaShall Brackney in the basement of the Allegheny Unitarian Church on North Avenue.
One of her comments, that the police would respond with "zero tolerance" against jay waking and "all moving violations and any parking violation that constitutes a public safety hazard" has sparked a week-long debate on a Northside on-line chatsite.
The meeting was about fatal shootings; many residents think the commander's "zero tolerance" decision was punitive because they were complaining that police have been ineffectual in keeping drug activity and violence from some of their streets.
Up and down the neighborhood, cars regularly park facing north and south, east and west on both sides of the street. If you're coming northound up your street and there's one parking space - on the left - you take it.
Every once in a great while, some people get tickets. It's considered a safety hazard because if you're parked the wrong way you have to pull out in the wrong lane. However, wrecks in this situation are rare because every street is straight and you can see oncoming cars in the side-view mirror.
Some residents are siding with the commander's zero tolerance stand, saying they have no problem parking the right way and that maybe some suspects in bigger crimes will get snared by parking illegally. Others say that the time police spend ticketing parked cars is a derisive response to the neighborhood's worries, a waste of time and, according to one resident, "feckless."
Two neighbors among the many had this recent exchange. (I got permission from one to use his name and await permission from the other; if it comes, I will supply the name):
While I wasn't at the MWSS meeting with Brackney, I actually agree with her. The issue isn't whether ticketing parked cars stops gun violence, rather the issue is whether we put up with lawlessness in general in our neighborhood. While there are certainly critics (aren't there for everything?), the "broken window theory" has a lot of support and hard evidence to support its effectiveness. One of the guiding principles in New York was that turnstile jumpers in the subway were significantly more likely to either a) be in the act of another crime; and/or b) be more likely to commit future crimes. By arresting turnstile jumpers the police established a system and sense of order in the subway. That was then carried out into the neighborhoods. Stopping petty criminals early and often and setting standards for a law abiding society was the goal. It worked - NYC saw a significant and rapid drop in crime. Debating whether or not the drop in crime was happening in other Cities certainly does not stop crime - implementing plans and procedures may. That is the point. If it doesn't work, try something else. Maybe some of those illegally parked cars belong to people with outstanding warrants? Maybe applying the law across the board provides the justification to then take harder measures? Who knows?
If we establish our neighborhood as a place the crime is not tolerated, whether that is littering, illegal parking or selling drugs, it will have a positive effect. However, if every time a crime is committed we say, "Hey crime happens in Mt. Lebanon," then we aren't solving anything, we are merely justifying everything. I think the goal should be to make crime unacceptable, whatever type of crime that may be. Last year before the CNNC elections, a gentleman yelled and screamed at me that "if these people don't like the gun shots, if they don't want gun shots they should move to the suburbs." That attitude my friends is ruinous for a community. Bullets flying by is not nostalgic or cool. Gun shots are unacceptable in Mt. Lebanon and they should be unacceptable here. Do people in the North Side deserve anything less? No, they do not. Likewise, all petty crime is unacceptable in Mt. Lebanon and should be unacceptable here. When WE start to change our attitudes about our neighborhood we can expect others to change theirs.
This from David Shlapak, a resident who has done "some digging around to inform myself" on the issue:
The alleged success of "broken windows" in New York has come under a lot of fire, and not of the innocuous "nobody's perfect" kind to which you allude; more of the "There's really not much evidence that it accomplished anything" kind." Crime rates in New York began dropping precipitously under Dinkins, several years before Bratton and Guiliani began clamping down on squeegee men and turnstile jumpers. The overall reduction in crime rates in New York during its "broken windows" era basically mirrored the deep secular downward trend in crime rates across the country in the 1990s, a drop resulting from a variety of powerful socioeconomic and demographic factors and trends. As one University of Chicago law professor who's studied the issue puts it, "'There's no good evidence that disorder causes crime [or] that broken windows policing reduces serious crime in a neighborhood." But Bratton and Guiliani are nothing if not relentless and marvelously skilled self-promoters, and the national fixation with New York afforded them a brilliant spotlight in which to strut their supposed success, turning it into one of the most problematic of urban legends.
Our problem here is not that kids take to selling drugs and violent crime because they see others getting away with jaywalking or parking improperly. They do it because they see other people getting away with selling drugs and violent crime. More than "getting away with"; being respected and seen as successful on account of it. And the situation is not helped by the fact that a lot of these kids likely can't credibly envision any other future for themselves that amounts to anything.
The way to catch a shark is not to sweep up the minnows. The way to get the shark is to go after the damn shark.
A response to that was "We're going to need a bigger boat."
Walkabout welcomes your comments.