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Does Quality-of-Life Policing Widen the Net?: A Partial Analysis

NCJ Number
Justice Research and Policy Volume: 6 Issue: 1 Dated: Spring 2004 Pages: 19-41
Date Published
23 pages

This study compared New York quality of life (QOL) arrestees with serious arrestees in order to examine whether QOL policing widens the net for arrest.


During the 1990’s under the leadership of Mayor Rudolph Guiliani, many aggressive policing programs were implemented, including QOL policing which allowed arrests for less serious offenses that compromised the city’s quality of life. Critics of QOL policing argue that such a policy widens the net for arrest, particularly among minority populations. Proponents of the QOL policing program argue that QOL policing creates more opportunities to arrest those individuals who tend to incur arrests for other more serious offenses. In order to explore this debate, the authors compared 195 QOL with 265 serious arrestees on a number of measures, including demographic characteristics, New York State criminal histories, self-reports of involvement with QOL behaviors, and recent drug use as measured through urinalysis. Results of statistical analyses, including logistical regression, provided partial support for the argument that QOL policing allows for more opportunities to arrest individuals who are likely to be arrested for more serious crimes. The two comparison groups were similar in terms of prior criminal histories, participation in QOL offenses, and demographic variables. If net widening had occurred with the implementation of QOL policing, the QOL arrestees would have had less extensive criminal histories. Implications for policing in New York City are discussed, including partial support for the continuation of QOL policing. Future research should focus on the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of New York City’s QOL policing program. Tables, references, appendix

Date Published: January 1, 2004