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‘Certainty of punishment’: How cracking down on low-level crime changed New York

A former New York police Commissioner has applauded police in Melbourne’s inner suburbs for adopting the tough zero tolerance policy which transformed his city.

Police in Richmond are adopting the ‘Broken Windows’ approach, cracking down on low-level crimes in the hope it stops offenders escalating to commit more serious offences.

In the 1990s, officers cracked down on graffiti, vandalism, drug sales and aggressive beggars who would harass and steal from people.

Howard Safir told Neil Mitchell in his four years in the top job, the overall crime rate dropped 38 per cent.

‘It’s a philosophy that if you deal with small crime, you also have an effect on serious crime,’ he said.

‘And then it sends a signal to criminals that it won’t be tolerated.’

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He said they found often those committing minor crimes were also responsible for more serious offences.

‘The whole philosophy behind the Broken Windows theory is you make sure the only people who police are criminals,’ Mr Safir said.

‘And if they are committing crimes, whether larger or small, they are going to be arrested. There’s a certainty of punishment.’

LISTEN: Former New York top cop on 3AW Mornings Ideas Factory