William Bratton
William Bratton; drawing by David Levine

The continuing decline in the nation’s crime rate—in 1997, it fell for the sixth consecutive year—has helped to draw attention to a small group of police chiefs and crime experts who are widely believed to have brought it about. They include William Bratton, New York’s former police commissioner; Jack Maple, who served as Bratton’s deputy and who is now advising the New Orleans police department; the political scientist James Q. Wilson; George L. Kelling, coauthor of the recent book Fixing Broken Windows,1 and Herman Goldstein, a professor at the University of Wisconsin and the author of Problem-Oriented Policing.

Over the last decade, these crime experts have helped to revolutionize the practice of policing in America. In doing so, they have affected the way we think about crime. In police circles, they have routed advocates of the old school, with its emphasis on cops riding around in squad cars, responding to reports of crime. Among criminologists, they have silenced those who argue that the police can do little about crime as long as its root causes—poverty, unemployment, racism—go unaddressed. These police officers and writers have changed the very vocabulary of law enforcement, introducing such terms as “broken windows,” “quality-of-life enforcement,” “preventive policing,” and “community policing.” They have been the subject of profiles in The New Yorker and New York, have appeared on the cover of Time, and been featured on 60 Minutes. Most recently, in August, The New York Times ran a glowing article claiming that “James Q. Wilson has insights, like those on cutting crime, that tend to prove out.”

Are such notices deserved? Can changes in police theory and practice rightly take credit for the drop in crime occurring nationwide?


Taking credit is one thing William Bratton is not shy about. In fact, he’s not shy about much of anything. In Turnaround: How America’s Top Cop Reversed the Crime Epidemic, he describes his rapid rise from rookie cop in Boston to chief of police in New York, and the tone is triumphalist throughout. In recounting his promotions, Bratton often sounds like a twelve-year-old telling his parents of his achievements at school. “When my name was announced as executive superintendent, jaws dropped,” he writes of one promotion. By his own description, Bratton is eager for publicity (“I admit it, I don’t mind seeing my name in the papers”) and intensely ambitious (“My whole career had been about making it to the top”). In Turnaround, he writes of his “leadership style” and compares himself to Lee Iacocca (for his turnaround of Chrysler), Frank Perdue (for promoting his company by promoting himself), and even Babe Ruth. Recalling his bold predictions of success upon taking over the NYPD, Bratton writes,

Like Babe Ruth pointing his bat to the bleachers indicating where his next home run would land, I was confidently predicting the future. I was a leader who had spent my whole professional life seeking out and turning around low-performing, dysfunctional police departments. Now I had been given the challenge of a lifetime—the NYPD.

Bratton’s Ruthian ego would ultimately prove his downfall, bringing him into conflict with the no-less-credit-hungry Rudolph Giuliani. Yet it must be said that Bratton delivered. On taking over the NYPD, he promised to reduce serious crime in the city in his first year by 10 percent; it fell by 12 percent. For the second year, he predicted a 15 percent decline; instead, crime fell by 17 percent. From these statistics, Bratton draws sweeping conclusions:

We had developed a method to reduce crime and disorder that would work in any city in America—indeed, in any city in the world…. The turnaround of the NYPD was the catalyst for the turnaround of New York City itself and offers a potential blueprint for the turnaround of the crime situation in the entire country.

Bratton expresses his irritation with criminologists who question how much the NYPD itself was responsible for the drop in crime. “I made a conscious decision to take on the academics, to challenge conventional wisdom about crime in America and prove that effective policing can make a substantial impact on social change…,” he writes. “We lined up their alternate reasons like ducks in a row and shot them all down.” Bratton is curtly dismissive, for instance, of the argument that the improvement in New York simply reflected national trends. “According to FBI figures,” he writes, “in the first six months of 1995, serious crime throughout the country went down by 1 percent, or about 67,000 crimes. In New York in that same period, there were 41,000 fewer crimes, a 16 percent drop. We were two-thirds of the national decline in reported crime.”

As anyone who works with crime statistics knows, it’s often possible to prove a point by picking the right period. Here, Bratton has limited himself to one six-month period in 1995. The picture changes if we consider a broader period, extending from 1992, when crime nationwide first began to drop, to 1997. Table 1 compares New York’s performance with that of several other large cities. It shows the change both in the overall number of serious crimes (as tallied by the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reports) as well as in the most serious crime, murder.


Table 1

Clearly, most of these large cities had substantial declines in both overall crime and murders. And while the police in some of the cities adopted reforms similar to those introduced in New York, others did not. In Washington, for instance, the police department has long been regarded as a sinkhole of corruption and mismanagement, yet the number of murders in the city in 1997 fell to 300 from 397 the year before. In short, the drop in crime seems to reflect trends in the nation at large.

One possible factor at work has been the booming economy. With national unemployment at its lowest level since 1973, would-be hoodlums have had more opportunities to earn money through legitimate means. In New York City, the jobless rate remains high at 7.5 percent, but even this represents a drop from 11.6 percent six years ago. While the research on the link between economic growth and crime is sparse, it’s hard to believe that an economic upturn of this size would not have put some downward pressure on crime rates.

The effects of economic growth have been magnified by the ebbing of the crack epidemic. In the early 1980s, before the introduction of crack, the rate of serious crime in the United States was falling. In 1985, however, the rate began to rise dramatically, and it continued to climb until 1991; violent crime rose especially sharply, increasing by 40 percent in seven years. (See Figure 1.) This increase was caused by wars among crack dealers as they battled for turf, as well as by violence among users as they sought to feed their habit. Then, in the early 1990s, crack use began to decline. While many inner-city adults continued to use the drug, their children and younger brothers and sisters—seeing the damage crack caused—began to shun it. In many large cities, the percentage of young arrestees testing positive for cocaine dropped sharply—a sign of crack’s growing unpopularity among those most prone to commit crimes.2

Figure 1

The result has been a significant fall-off in crack-related crime in the nation’s largest cities. Conversely, some smaller cities, hit later by crack, have experienced an upsurge in violence; in Indianapolis, for instance, the number of murders rose from 88 in 1992 to 146 in 1997. Earlier this year, U.S. News & World Report, in a cover story analyzing the possible causes of the national crime drop, cited the receding of the crack epidemic as the “prime suspect.”3

In the light of all this, William Bratton’s one-paragraph brushoff of national trends seems misleading. Still, the New York experience is in many ways unique. As Table 1 shows, the declines there have outstripped those in every other major city; what’s more, crime in New York has dropped to levels well below those prevailing before crack’s arrival. One has to go back to 1967 to find a year in which fewer murders were recorded in the city than the 770 of last year. (See Figure 2)

Figure 1

Such figures lend weight to Bratton’s claims about the importance of his reforms in New York. Certainly most New Yorkers are grateful for the new sense of peace on their streets. To them, the “police revolution” seems real enough.

Like most revolutions, however, this one has had some unintended consequences. What’s more, the nature of the revolution has been misrepresented, giving rise to public misconceptions that have obscured its long-term costs.


In January 1996, William Bratton appeared on the cover of Time. “Finally, We’re Winning the War Against Crime,” the headline said. “Here’s Why.” Bratton, pictured in trench coat and tie, was identified as “New York Commissioner William Bratton, a leading advocate of community policing.” Inside, Time described the “potential new synergy between cops and residents.” To illustrate the point, the article featured a photograph of two cops playing basketball with a group of black children outside a New Orleans housing project, and another of a cop smiling at a baby in a crib in Brooklyn. Such images sum up the popular view of community policing—amiable cops on the beat befriending local youths, dropping in on store owners, working with neighborhood leaders to address local problems. It is policing with a human face.

William Bratton’s book itself is full of anodyne prose about the importance of cooperation between the cops and the community. Of his early days in Boston, he writes, “The beat cop was coming back through neighborhood policing. We could bring down crime by developing a partnership between the population and the police.” Describing his arrival in New York, he writes, “With its emphasis on treating people respectfully and as partners, on interacting with responsible community and religious leaders, and on understanding that even in the toughest neighborhoods most citizens are good and law-abiding, community policing offered the best hope for the department and for the city.”


The idea of cooperation between the police and local communities is undeniably appealing, but it doesn’t remotely describe what happened in New York under Bratton, or what is now happening under his successor, Howard Safir. While Bratton transferred officers from squad cars to the street, he did not encourage officers to establish close relations with local leaders or residents.

Bratton’s inspiration was not the concept of community policing but that of “broken windows,” which he first encountered in the late 1980s, when he was attending an executive seminar on policing at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government.4 Among the speakers was George Kelling, who had, in 1982, teamed up with James Q. Wilson to write a highly influential article for The Atlantic Monthly titled “Broken Windows.” The police, Kelling and Wilson argued, had become so concentrated on solving major offenses like homicides and robberies that they were overlooking smaller ones like panhandling, prostitution, and public drunkenness. Such offenses, in their view, created a climate of disorder in which more serious crimes could flourish. If a window in a building is broken and left unrepaired, Wilson and Kelling wrote, others would soon follow; similarly, if the police ignored small-time violators, more serious offenses would result.

Listening to Kelling describe these ideas at the Kennedy School, Bratton found his own experience confirmed. While working his way up the ladder in Boston, he had himself become convinced of the importance of disorderly and destructive behavior in the streets as a source of crime; now, for the first time, he heard someone putting his impressions into words, and he became an immediate convert. And, in 1990, on being named head of the New York Transit Police, he would get a chance to put the Broken Windows thesis to the test.

At the time, New York’s subways seemed in a state of disintegration, with crime soaring, graffiti spreading, panhandlers proliferating, and more and more riders abandoning the system. Particularly troublesome was the problem of fare-beating, which had become brazen. (Bratton describes how, on one of his initial visits into the system, he saw a man with his mouth over a turnstile slot, “sucking out the jammed coins and leaving his slobber.”) For old-school transit officers, fare-beating was too trivial an offense to worry about. But the Transit Authority was losing a lot of money from it and wanted the practice stopped.

Overcoming resistance from his own men, Bratton assigned squads of officers to patrol turnstiles and arrest those jumping them. In the past, such offenders would have simply received “desk-appearance tickets,” known as DATs—summonses to police stations that hardly anyone obeyed—and then would have been released immediately; now, officers were instructed to see if their names appeared on the lists of outstanding warrants for arrest. As it turned out, one in every seven did, and they were immediately taken to police headquarters to be booked.

Eventually, Bratton introduced a Bust Bus—a city bus retrofitted into an arrest-processing center—which, traveling to stations, allowed officers to book people on the spot. Subway riders, seeing the arrests, would applaud the police, helping to boost their morale. As word of the sweeps spread, troublemakers began staying out of the subways altogether, and crime began to drop. As Bratton writes,

We had reduced fare evasion, motivated the cops, streamlined the arrest process, and increased police productivity; we had involved the public, increased their attention, and won their approval; we had controlled disorder and achieved a decrease in crime. All from arresting people for a buck-fifteen crime. We were proving the Broken Windows theory.

Bratton introduced many other changes as transit chief. He ordered police officers to crack down on panhandlers in the subway. He saw to it that defaced cars were immediately taken out of the system and cleaned. He upgraded his officers’ equipment and dressed them in spiffy new uniforms. (In Turnaround, Bratton—convinced that cops who look better perform better—spends much time discussing the finer points of police fashion.) Overall, under Bratton, felony crime in the subway dropped 22 percent; fare-beating was cut in half, and the number of riders increased.

In 1992, Bratton—always eager for the next promotion—abruptly left his job in New York to take a top position with the Boston police department. He was there less than two years when Rudolph Giuliani got in touch with him. In a meeting with the newly elected mayor, Bratton described the Broken Windows approach. It fit nicely with Giuliani’s concern about the declining quality of life in New York, and Bratton promptly got the job he’d wanted since he was a boy: New York police commissioner. As he quickly discovered, however, the NYPD, while renowned as the world’s greatest crime-fighting machine, was in fact “dysfunctional.” While very good at responding to crime, New York cops “weren’t very good at preventing it,” Bratton writes. “They weren’t even trying to prevent it. They were cleaning up around it.”

The problem lay in part with the community-policing model introduced by his predecessors, Lee Brown and Ray Kelly. Community policing, Bratton writes in Turnaround, “focused on the beat cop…. ‘Officer Friendly’ would respectfully resume contact with the community, courteously listen to people’s problems, and immediately find appropriate solutions.” While fine in theory, such an approach “was not going to work because there was no focus on crime. The connection between having more cops on the street and the crime rate falling was implicit. There was no plan to deploy these officers in specifically hard-hit areas…and there were no concrete means by which they were supposed to address crime when they got there.”

In particular, community policing as practiced in New York had no strategy for dealing with the squeegee men, beggars, prostitutes, drug dealers, and graffiti writers who were creating a sense of disorder on the street. Bratton was determined to go after them. “Previous police administrations had been handcuffed by restrictions,” he writes.

We took the handcuffs off…. We stepped up enforcement of the laws against public drunkenness and public urination and arrested repeat violators, including those who threw empty bottles in the street or were involved in even relatively minor damage to property. No more DATs. If you peed in the street, you were going to jail. We were going to fix the broken windows and prevent anyone from breaking them again.

As in the subways, cracking down on small fry produced broader benefits. If the police saw someone with an open beer can on the street, for instance, they would pat his clothes; if they found a gun or knife, they would book him for carrying a weapon. This not only prevented a possible incident involving that particular weapon but also sent a message to others to leave their weapons at home. This, in turn, helped reduce the level of violence in the city.

Introducing Broken Windows tactics was part of a broader effort by Bratton to “reengineer” the culture of the NYPD. As at Transit, he modernized equipment and redesigned uniforms. He introduced a videoconferencing system that allowed arresting officers to provide information to prosecutors without having to waste hours at the courthouse. Most important, he informed precinct commanders that henceforth they would be held accountable for their performance. Once a month, each commander had to appear at One Police Plaza to be grilled by the brass about crime trends in his precinct and how he was responding to them. These were the famous “Compstat” sessions that eventually drew police officials from around the world.

None of these changes required the police to work with the community. Indeed, the police under Bratton were determined not to work with the community, as I learned in an interview with John Timoney, one of Bratton’s top deputies. (Earlier this year, he was named police chief in Philadelphia.) A ruddy, excitable, outspoken Irishman, Timoney contemptuously dismissed the idea that the police should enlist neighborhood residents in fighting crime. “I don’t want to help the sanitation people pick up the garbage,” he said. “It’s the cops’ job to fight crime. Community policing said the cops can’t do it alone. Our answer was, ‘Yes, they can.”‘ Under the Broken Windows strategy, the police were to become more aggressive—the opposite of the restrained approach usually counseled by community policing. And, to judge by crime statistics, the Broken Windows approach seems to have been a far more effective strategy than community policing, at least as it had been understood in New York.

At the same time, the new assertiveness inherent in the Broken Windows model has had some unfortunate byproducts. One is the strain in relations between the police and minorities in New York. Mayor Giuliani and his allies have frequently argued that inner-city residents—stuck in high-crime districts—have benefited as much as anyone from the police crackdown in the city. And so they have. Nonetheless, many blacks are upset by the rough treatment they’ve received from the police. Far from playing basketball with black youths, the police have harassed many of them. In one recent incident, a black sixteen-year-old carrying a water pistol shaped like an assault rifle was shot seven times by two cops; not only did the police not apologize, but Mayor Giuliani chided the boy’s parents for letting him be out late at night. Not exactly an example of community-police partnership.

An even more serious problem with the Broken Windows approach is the large number of arrests it entails. Cracking down on petty offenders means busting many of them, with all the attendant strain on the criminal justice system. The problem is especially acute where drugs are concerned. In the Broken Windows model, street-level drug dealers are prime offenders, breeding disorder wherever they appear. In Turnaround, Bratton describes his determination to rid the city of drug dealers once and for all. With the help of his aide Jack Maple, he developed Operation Juggernaut, a plan to send hundreds of plainclothes police into drug-ridden neighborhoods to conduct buy-and-bust operations, padlock drug-dealing bodegas, and raid apartments. In describing the operation, Bratton sounds as if he has taken General George S. Patton as his model:

Prior to Juggernaut, the city’s war on drugs had been our Vietnam; we were fighting a hit-and-run enemy and had gone in and made a lot of contact when we could, but we’d never held the ground. We didn’t have the tactics or the will to win. Juggernaut was the Normandy invasion. We were going to overwhelm our opponents, take the ground and never leave, and systematically take them out…. We would systematically take out the low-level street dealer, the midlevel operator, and high-level kingpin. We would attack them consistently on all fronts at all times. If you were a drug dealer, you were a marked man.

Juggernaut was launched in April 1996, with 1,000 police sent into northern Brooklyn. Soon after, the campaign was extended to several other drug-ridden parts of the city. And it had some success. By disrupting drug gangs, the police were able to bring down murder and robbery rates in the neighborhoods they entered. In doing so, however, they made huge numbers of arrests. In 1997 (by which time Bratton had been replaced by Howard Safir), the number of drug arrests in the city hit a record 101,000—more, even, than at the height of the crack epidemic.

Curious about the effect this was having on the criminal justice system, I talked to Michael Jacobson before he resigned as New York’s commissioner of correction at the end of 1997. In view of Jacobson’s position, and the fact that he was a Giuliani appointee, I fully expected him to applaud the city’s anti-drug crackdown. Instead, he was outspokenly critical. “Prison expenses are going through the roof,” he said. In 1980, he noted, his department spent about $150 million to house 6,000 to 7,000 inmates; in 1997, it was spending $800 million to house 18,000 to 21,000, of whom more than one third were drug offenders. A former city budget official, Jacobson noted that all of this was part of a “zero-sum game. The money for corrections is coming out of other places, like health care and education.” Because of all the drug arrests being made in the city, Jacobson said, “kids in New York schools have to attend classes with ninety other kids.”

The city’s drug offensive was proving expensive for New York State, as well, for it was the state that had to house all those drug offenders after they were convicted. Many had to serve long terms, thanks to the draconian drug laws imposed under Nelson Rockefeller. According to them, even the lowliest sellers of crack and heroin were commonly sent away for one, two, or more years, depending on their previous record. Owing largely to the increase in drug offenders, the state’s prison population has shot up from 21,621 in 1980 to nearly 70,000 today. By the early 1990s, the system had become so jammed with low-level drug offenders that violent felons were being let out early to make room for them.

Seeing the madness in this system, Governor George Pataki has quietly begun arranging for the early release of low-level offenders so as to free up space for truly dangerous felons. In 1997, for the first time in fifteen years, the number of drug offenders behind bars went down. 5 This is just a stopgap measure, however. As long as New York City keeps rounding up street-level drug dealers and prosecuting them under the Rockefeller laws, the pressure on the state system will continue.


As in New York, so in the rest of the country. In 1997, the nation’s prison population grew by 5.2 percent—this despite a 4 percent drop in crime. The number of Americans behind bars rose from 1.1 million in 1990 to 1.7 million last year.6 Of course, a drop in crime need not automatically result in a decrease in the number of inmates. On the contrary, the growth in the prison population has probably helped reduce crime by removing so many troublemakers from the street. The problem is, there seems no end in sight to the explosion in inmates. What’s more, we increasingly seem to be locking up the wrong people.

This last point is convincingly made by Susan Estrich in her short but lucid book Getting Away With Murder: How Politics Is Destroying the Criminal Justice System. A professor of law and political science at the University of Southern California, Estrich is a Democrat but, as she is eager to show, a hard-headed one. Seeking to distance herself from the civil liberties wing of the party, she writes of her humble origins (she went to law school on a scholarship), her ability to get ahead without special help (she managed to become a professor “because I was smart”), and her own personal brush with crime (she was raped when she was twenty-one). As an adviser to presidential candidate Michael Dukakis in 1988, Estrich had to deal with the problem posed by the case of Willie Horton, the center of the most ferocious get-tough-on-crime ad campaign ever.

In her book, Estrich asks how society should deal with a man like Horton, a first-degree murderer who, while on a weekend furlough from a Massachusetts penal institution, brutally raped a Maryland woman in her house. Her answer is simple: “Lock him up.” She is openly disdainful of Dukakis, noting how, as governor, he doggedly defended the policy of furloughing first-degree murderers even after Horton’s crime. After such tough-sounding remarks, however, Estrich goes on to mount a scathing criticism of the criminal justice system, especially its reliance on mandatory minimum sentences. Virtually every state in the country now has such sentences, and while their main goal is to punish people like Willie Horton and isolate them from society, they are, Estrich argues, having the exact opposite effect.

As an example, she cites California’s three-strikes-and-you’re-out law. The occasion for this measure was the kidnapping and murder of twelve-year-old Polly Klaas by Richard Alan Davis, who, at the time of the crime, was on parole for a third offense. For that third offense—also a kidnapping—Davis had received a sixteen-year sentence, the maximum. Because of a shortage of prison space, however, the California legislature had passed a law requiring all inmates to serve one half of their mandatory terms, “effectively cutting [sentences] across the board,” Estrich notes. Davis was released automatically in exactly eight years. He then kidnapped Polly.

In his grief and outrage, Polly’s father, Marc Klaas, led a campaign to enact a ballot proposition that would put three-time offenders like Davis away for good. Politicians across the state took up his cause, and the proposition was progressively made more severe. In its final version, the measure did not require the third felony to be violent, and it barred judges from assessing the dangerousness of the person committing the crime—provisions so excessive that Marc Klaas himself came out against the proposition. Nonetheless, it carried by a wide margin. And, in its first two years on the books, about 70 percent of the cases tried under it involved three strikes that were nonviolent, with drug use the most common offense. This not only resulted in the waste of millions of taxpayers’ dollars, Estrich writes, but also crowded the state’s prisons, making it more likely that truly violent criminals would be released. “The result of mandatory laws and punishment by slogan,” she observes, “is that we spend more and more money locking up less and less violent people.”

Such irrationality, Lord Windlesham argues in Politics, Punishment, and Populism, is to be found throughout America’s criminal justice system. The principal of Brasenose College at Oxford and the former chairman of the Parole Board for England and Wales, Lord Windlesham coolly analyzes the American system of criminal justice and finds it dismaying. He concentrates on the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, which, authorizing the expenditure of $30.2 billion over six years, was the most expensive, and extensive, piece of crime legislation in American history. At times, Politics, Punishment, and Populism gets bogged down in the details of congressional maneuvering, but the book shows with admirable clarity how public opinion, populist rhetoric, and the demands of legislative compromise combined to produce a law that defies the findings of research, not to mention common sense.

Well before the crime bill was taken up, in the fall of 1993, Windlesham observes, the surge in violent crime in the United States had begun receding. Nonetheless, as his research shows, TV news programs were featuring a record number of crime stories that year, helping to create public alarm, and that in turn drove legislators to vote ever harsher sanctions, and ever larger appropriations to carry them out. Of the 1994 act’s final price tag, $13.8 billion was earmarked for law enforcement—mostly to put 100,000 new police officers on the street—and $9.8 billion to expand a prison system whose incarceration rate already outstripped that of every industrialized nation save Russia. Between 1980 and 1993, Lord Windlesham notes with some astonishment, the number of people in custody for drug offenses grew from about 24,000 to nearly 240,000, with most of them sentenced under laws requiring mandatory minimum terms in prison. To this Conservative peer the application of such severe penalties to such petty offenders seems the most damnable feature of a highly irrational system.

Last year, the RAND Corporation published a study assessing the cost-effectiveness of mandatory-minimum sentences for drug offenses. 7 Using a variety of statistical techniques, RAND attempted to estimate how much US cocaine consumption would be reduced by investing an additional million dollars in longer sentences for drug dealers, as compared with investing that money in conventional law enforcement—arrest, prosecution, and incarceration—or drug treatment. Spending a million dollars on longer prison sentences, RAND estimated, would reduce cocaine consumption by about 13 kilograms (about 28 pounds). Investing it in law enforcement would reduce it by 27 kilograms. Putting the same amount of money into treatment programs, by contrast, would reduce consumption by more than 100 kilograms.

As for reducing cocaine-related crime, every dollar invested in drug treatment was found to be ten times more effective than law enforcement and fifteen times more effective than mandatory minimums. The reason, RAND concluded, is that when a supplier is jailed, he is usually replaced by another supplier, whereas treatment directly reduces the market for drugs and, by extension, the negative consequences associated with them. All in all, RAND concluded, “mandatory minimums produce the smallest bang for the buck by far.”

Drug treatment gets little attention from the leaders of the “police revolution.” For them, druggies are just another breed of malefactor adding to the sense of disorder in the street. Yet they are in many ways different from other offenders. Arrest a fare-beater or a subway graffiti-writer often enough and he will eventually get the message and desist. Drug addicts, however, have a compulsive need to use drugs and so are not subject to the normal rules of deterrence. And so the police must keep arresting them—a Normandy invasion without end. The Broken Windows model has had undeniable successes, but dealing with the drug problem has not been one of them.

Perhaps more than any other factor, trends in drug use account for changes in US crime rates. The rise of crack was largely responsible for the sharp upsurge in crime of the late 1980s. And, while the crack epidemic has waned, the nation’s drug market remains vast, with an estimated 3.6 million Americans addicted to heroin, cocaine, and crack. So far our main strategy for dealing with them has been arrest, prosecution, and incarceration. It is time to try a new approach, one that would seek to reduce the demand for drugs by providing addicts the help they need.

This Issue

November 19, 1998