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De Blasio defends NYPD's 'broken windows' strategy, a target of protests

Mayor Bill de Blasio and Police Commissioner William

Mayor Bill de Blasio and Police Commissioner William J. Bratton preside over the New York Police Department ceremony at One Police Plaza in Manhattan on Friday, Dec. 19, 2014. Credit: Uli Seit

Mayor Bill de Blasio Friday stood by the NYPD's "broken windows" crime-fighting strategy that targets low-level offenses -- a policy under attack by protesters in recent weeks.

His comments came hours after a private meeting with leaders of Justice League NYC, which said it pressed demands to "address systemic racism in policing in New York City."

Standing with Police Commissioner William Bratton, de Blasio said "broken windows" was effective in driving down crime rates during Bratton's first stint as head of the NYPD in the mid-1990s.

"Because of the 'broken windows' approach, we are the safest we've ever been. I've lived through the 1980s in this city and early 1990s, and I don't ever want to go back, and I don't think any New Yorkers want to go back there," de Blasio said during a news conference with Bratton at police headquarters in Manhattan.

"This strategy, largely due to the leadership of Commissioner Bratton, was a crucial part of turning around that situation," said the mayor, who has been lambasted by police unions for statements they have called too accommodating to the protesters.

"Broken windows" came under renewed debate after the July 17 death of Eric Garner, 43, of Staten Island during an arrest on suspicion of selling loose, untaxed cigarettes, a minor offense. A grand jury's decision on Dec. 3 not to charge the officer who placed him in an apparent chokehold ignited a wave of demonstrations.

Justice League NYC argued that the tactic leads to unequal treatment of minorities. The group issued a statement calling its meeting with de Blasio Friday "productive." However, the group did not respond to de Blasio's later comments that seemed at odds with one of its demands.

Going forward, de Blasio said, there will be changes and adjustments made to the quality-of-life policing to meet the changing times.

"It changes, for example, when we say we think marijuana possession, in small quantities, should not be an arrestable offense," de Blasio said.

Meanwhile, two groups -- one supporting the police and one against -- demonstrated outside City Hall, trading verbal jabs but no scuffles.

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