In this article from City Journal, the efforts of the police utilizing broken windows policing have substantially reduced crime in the skid row of Los Angeles; but the homeless advocates there—as in Sacramento—are opposed to any police efforts within the homeless community focusing on illegal camping, loitering, and other low-level street crimes that form the heart of broken windows policing.
We, as a community, should always do what we can to help the homeless, but not at the expense of the public safety of the other members of the community; and we should also approach the problem with a firm grasp on the personal responsibility aspect of the homelessness situation.
“The homeless industry on Los Angeles’s Skid Row lost its final shred of legitimacy this summer. Three murders and their aftermath exposed the advocates’ opposition to assertive policing as dangerous, hypocritical posturing. Los Angeles officials should reorient their funding priorities in light of the lessons of the summer of 2009.
“For 25 years, Skid Row constituted a real-world experiment in the application of homeless-advocate ideology. The squalor that engulfed the 50-block district just east of downtown Los Angeles was the direct outgrowth of advocates’ claims that the homeless should be exempt from the rules of ordinary society. The result was not a reign of peace and love among society’s underdogs, but rather brutal predation and depravity. Occupants of the filthy tents and lean-tos that covered every inch of sidewalk in the area pimped each other out and stole from, stabbed, and occasionally killed one another. Gangs and pushers from South Central and East Los Angeles operated with impunity under cover of the chaos that reigned on the streets.
“The intrepid small wholesalers and warehouse owners who tried to keep the area’s once vigorous commercial trade alive removed feces, condoms, and hypodermic needles from the entrance to their properties every morning. Elderly residents of the local Single Room Occupancy hotels were imprisoned in their tiny apartments, terrified to go outside.
“In 2006, Los Angeles Police Chief William Bratton announced a full-scale attack on Skid Row anarchy. His Safer City Initiative (SCI) would be a demonstration project, he said, for Broken Windows theory, which holds that tolerance for low-level forms of crime and disorder allows more serious crime to fester. When the police started enforcing jaywalking, public urination, and public camping laws, thousands of warrant absconders and violent parolees on the lam lost their refuge. Order gradually returned to the streets.
“The homeless themselves were the Safer City Initiative’s most immediate beneficiaries. As the lawlessness in the encampments was pushed back, deaths from drug overdoses, untreated disease, and other non-homicidal causes of mortality diminished as well, falling 36 percent in just three years. Skid Row’s violent crime—the victims of which were almost always other vagrants—decreased 45 percent from the first nine months of 2006, before SCI began, to the first nine months of 2009. The lean-tos faded away as their inhabitants discovered that they could no longer smoke weed and crack in them all day without disturbance.
“Skid Row’s radical social-service providers and public-housing advocates declared war on the Safer City Initiative. They directed a nonstop barrage of propaganda and lawsuits against the LAPD, claiming that its officers were abusing the poor on behalf of would-be gentrifiers. One of the most vocal critics was Casey Horan, executive director of Lamp Community and a highly public presence in Skid Row politics. Lamp is a subsidized housing provider that counsels its mentally ill clients to use drugs “safely”—an approach to drug treatment known as “harm reduction”—rather than requiring abstinence from drugs as a condition of residency. Los Angeles Times columnist Steve Lopez has championed Horan, giving Lamp a prominent and always virtuous role in his book and subsequent movie about Skid Row, The Soloist.”