U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

Quality-of-Life Policing, Net Widening, and Crime Specialization

NCJ Number
Date Published
May 2002
29 pages

This study examined whether the New York City Police's (NYPD's) policy of arresting persons for minor offenses (quality-of-life offenses) drew people into the criminal justice system who would not otherwise have become involved ("net-widening") and/or increased minority representation among arrestees.


Under a policy of getting tough on crime initiated in the 1990's, the NYPD instituted a policy of arresting persons for minor crimes such as fare-beating, smoking marijuana in public, graffiti, sleeping on public benches, etc. Clearly, this quality-of-life (QOL) policing increased the total number of arrests because of the expansion of the range of behaviors for which arrests were made. It is less obvious, however, whether QOL policing resulted in a wider variety of persons sustaining arrests, i.e., persons who would have otherwise been unlikely to be sanctioned. To explore this issue, 195 QOL arrestees and 265 persons arrested for serious offenses were compared on demographic characteristics, official State criminal histories, self-reports of involvement with various QOL behaviors, and recent drug use as detected by urinalysis. The study found that the two groups of arrestees had similar prior arrest records, participation in QOL offenses, and demographic composition. Blacks and Hispanics comprised close to 90 percent of both arrestee populations. These findings suggest that QOL policing as practiced by the NYPD in 1999 did not widen the net for arrest, nor did it increase minority representation among arrestees. 6 tables and 37 references

Date Published: May 1, 2002