Like much of the Rust Belt, Rochester, New York has seen its share of warm temperatures this summer, and with it, a near doubling in the number of gun assaults, to an appalling 95 shootings so far this year. Always eager to try old, failed ideas from other cities, Rochester has taken a page from Rudy Giuliani’s Broken Window Theory playbook and chosen to target petty crimes with a new idea some are calling the Single Diaper Theory.
Rochester has around 350 corner stores, and according to the local paper’s math, police respond an average of 21 times a year to each of these corner stores, with the worst 25 averaging 80 responses a year. City Hall contends these corner stories are a nexus for crime, but because efforts at dealing with the drugs, prostitutes, underage liquor sales, food stamp fraud and loose cigarette sales that are so popular in or around these stores has been difficult, it is time to take a different tact and target the last hold out–the illegal diaper dealers.
It seems store owners in less affluent parts of Rochester are breaking up packs of Pampers and selling diapers individually at an incredible mark up. Not only are these diaper sales illegal, but City Hall has taken the position that crimes like this contribute to a culture of lawlessness, and with this lawlessness comes an increase in gun violence. City Hall’s new theory is that by stopping petty criminals like bicyclists without bells, drivers with damaged taillights and yes, even those dealing in loose cigarettes and single diapers, they will get guns off the streets.
Critics of the plan suggest that those using the illegal diapers (primarily infants and toddlers) are rarely involved in gun crimes. Diaper buyers claim that they are not trying to break the law, but simply trying to diaper their children. Many say that they would prefer to buy a large pack of legal diapers, but simply can not afford to, forcing them to choose between buying illegal single diapers from the corner stores, or having no diapers at all.
As the summer of gun violence continues, City Council plans to take up the issue in the coming weeks. Until then, it remains to be seen if City Hall’s crackdown on the illegal diapers will have an impact on the recent rash of gun crimes in the city, or merely replace one rash with another.
— Clarke Condé