“If a window in a building is broken and is left unrepaired,” they observed, “all the rest of the windows will soon be broken.” said James Q. Wilson and George L. Kelling in an influential article in The Atlantic. According to Wilson and Kelling, tracking down petty crimes like jaywalking, jumping over the turnstiles, making a drunken threat to a police officer, and others, will prevent the society from developing citizens who will someday commit a more serious crime; believing that the same people commmiting the small crimes would be commiting murder, rape, grand larceny, and others, in the future.
I was, unfortunately, one of the people who were given a “ticket” for swiping my Metrocard in a subway station and letting my younger sister in with me. I was 18-years-old at that time. As I approached the train cart, one foot already inside the train, 3 police officers stopped me and my sister. One of the police men asked me what I did back in the turnstile, obviously knowing already what I did, and I didn’t lie. It wasn’t a long conversation. The men gave me and my sister a ticket each, saying that this is just a warning and we better not do it again. I asked if I need to pay a fine but they kept telling me that it is just a warning. Two months later, I found out that it is not.
My sister and I were fined $150 each. In the court appeal, I was trying to tell the judge that the police officers told me that I don’t need to pay for anything, and that the tickets were only a warning, but I wasn’t granted an appeal since I did not have the officers’ names. Originally, the fine was $50 each but since my sister and I didn’t pay it after an apparent due date, the fine was tripled.
I was 18-years old. My sister was $14-years-old. She literally had to beg me to allow her to come with me to visit my aunts because she doesn’t have $2.50 to pay for the train ride. Why did we have to pay an amount that a minimum wage full-time worker would have to work on for most of the week to earn? To be honest, I didn’t learn anything from the experience but distrust in the policing system since I would have never done this if I had other options. Instead of averting the problem, the broken windows policy is causing more problems to its victims – especially for the lower income individuals.
It didn’t make sense to me then. It doesn’t make sense to me now.
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