George Kelling, the architect of so-called “Broken Windows” policing, has passed away on Wednesday.
Mr. Kelling, like most people whose idea of helping poor minority neighborhoods is to effectively police them, spent much of his lifetime being condemned by the POPPO* left as a racist.
I don’t know what Mr. Kelling’s true feelings about race were. But I do know that there was great merit in some of his ideas…a feeling pretty clearly shared by a significant number of law-abiding residents in those areas.
So, with a major tip of my imaginary hat to John Hinderaker of powerlineblog.com, whose latest commentary informed me of George Kelling’s passing, and Heather Mac Donald’s absolutely must-read biographical tribute to him….
….here is a link to Ms. Mac Donald’s article. And here are its first and final paragraphs:
Law-abiding residents of high-crime neighborhoods keep proving George Kelling right and most of his colleagues wrong. Kelling, 83, died yesterday of cancer at his home in New Hampshire. Go to a police-community meeting in any troubled neighborhood—whether the South Side of Chicago or South Central Los Angeles—and you will rarely hear complaints about what most criminologists call “serious” crimes, such as robbery or shootings. Instead, residents will plead for surcease from open-air drug dealing, the unruly teens colonizing corners, loud music, and other affronts to civility. Kelling recognized this yearning for public order among the poor and in so doing created one of the most important contributions to urban policy in the last half century: the Broken Windows theory of policing.
The endgame for much of academia and for “progressives” is to eliminate proactive policing in minority neighborhoods. These critics remain wedded to the idea that crime can be lowered only by solving its alleged root causes: racism and poverty. Kelling asserted the opposite: that constitutional, responsive policing is the best hope that law-abiding residents of high crime areas have to live free from fear, a right that people in safer neighborhoods take for granted. Portraying the police as a force for evil is one of the most destructive consequences of the 1960s revolt against traditional authority. George Kelling’s empirically based wisdom revived the understanding that protecting public order is an essential and humane function of government—and that the viability of cities rests on respect for the law.
Do you fear walking the streets in your own neighborhood, day and night? Do you sweat out sending your child outside to play, or walking to the corner store to get milk?
There are neighborhoods in urban centers throughout the United States where that “quality of life” is an ongoing reality. And that is exactly what George Kelling, and his colleague/partner James Q. Wilson, tried – with considerable success in the cities that heard their message – to do something about.
*POPPO: Professional Oppressed, Perpetually Pissed Off