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Loose Cigarettes Today, Civil Unrest Tomorrow

By Justin Peters & Campaign Zero

Insight: Broken windows policing is back in New York City, and it may have killed Eric Garner. “Broken windows” is an order-maintenance strategy that encourages cops to enforce quality-of-life laws on the grounds that, essentially, nits breed lice. It presumes that a disorderly environment where small laws are broken with impunity leads to bigger problems. This is the mindset that led the police to approach Garner for allegedly selling untaxed cigarettes: loose cigarettes today, civil unrest tomorrow.

Police search a man for drugs and weapons in Harlem, New York, in April 1978. Photo by Alain Le Garsmeur/Getty Images

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