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Does Quality-of-Life Policing Widen the Net?

NCJ Number
Date Published
30 pages
Publication Series
This study investigated whether the New York Police Department’s (NYPD) policy of arresting for minor offenses resulted in more people being arrested.
During the 1990s, as part of New York’s “get tough on crime” policy, the NYPD began arresting people for minor offenses, such as smoking marijuana in public and farebeating, that affected the quality of life in New York. While the crime rate has declined in New York, many critics voice concern that this type of policy widens the net for arrest, especially among the city’s many minority groups. A counter-argument suggests that an aggressive arrest policy does not necessarily result in more people being arrested. Instead, it is suggested that criminal offenders tend to commit a wide range of offenses, including relatively minor quality-of-life offenses. The authors explain that this perspective is consistent with the criminological theory of low self-control. In order to investigate these competing arguments, the authors compared 195 quality-of-life arrestees with 265 serious arrestees from the 1999 ADAM (Arrestee Drug Abuse Monitoring Program) New York City Policing Study. Results revealed that the quality-of-life offenders were similar to the serious offenders in prior arrests, demographic composition, and quality of life offenses. As such, the authors conclude that the aggressive arrest policy of the NYPD did not widen the net for arrest. Instead, evidence suggests that the same people were being arrested more often. References, appendix, tables

Date Published: January 1, 2002