[Ed. – This isn’t what Aurin Squire meant to reveal. But what we see from his article is that illegal public drinking in the wealthier parts of town doesn’t go with “broken windows”: violent or property crime, unsafe streets, gangs, etc. If the purpose of broken-windows policing is to clean up the unsafe places, that’s where the police have to be, regardless of what color or ethnicity people are.]
Here is my story of two cities. Ten years ago, when I first moved to New York City, some friends invited me out to an afternoon concert in Central Park. This was an event filled with upper-middle-class white people enjoying music and culture—and an occasion, it turned out, to flaunt the city’s open-container laws. I was naïve enough to be surprised at how many of my friends were publicly drinking wine and liquor from badly disguised canisters, cups, and flasks. Eventually the party staggered out of the park and on to the Upper West Side, down the streets, and into the subways. Riders greeted us with smiles and laughter, pedestrians gave us you-crazy-kids nudges. Our portable debauchery snaked all the way home to our dorm rooms.
A few months later I was walking around the Lower East Side, on my way to meet friends. I decided to stop into a bodega and get a beer, which I sipped out of a brown paper bag as I blithely wandered near a housing project. A police officer materialized, and when he checked my ID, he seemed surprised that I didn’t live in the housing project. He wrote me a ticket me for the open container and let me go. I didn’t think much of it. I was, in fact, breaking the law. But what a contrast from my earlier infractions, in a white space with white friends.