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Letter: Respect Rights in Policing Communities (Rochester Democrat and Chronicle)

To the editor:

Rochester Police Chief David Moore has attributed the 12 percent drop in crime from 2007 to 2008 to the strong application of the Zero Tolerance program. This is a drop of six murders — 50 to 44. In the first few days of 2009, six murders occurred, all under Zero Tolerance. So does Zero Tolerance actually do any good in reducing the murder rate? We know it is very costly in terms of police overtime (record levels in 2008), in alienating low-income communities and communities of color, and in distracting police from other crime prevention techniques.

There is another way. Milwaukee attacked this tragic problem by improving community-police relations and increasing foot patrols. As a result, the murder rate dropped by one third from 2007 to 2008.

Policing strategies that alienate the community and violate individual rights breed antagonism, hostility and mistrust. To effectively fight crime, Rochester must respect the dignity and rights of all in its community. Zero Tolerance is not the solution.

Laurence W. Britt
Board Member, Genesee Valley Chapter of the New York Civil Liberties Union

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