Business Improvement Districts and business associations, such as the Chamber of Commerce, are very powerful lobbies that advocate the criminalization of homelessness and the use of police power to maintain the core fabric of racial and economic segregation in many cities across the United States.
Real estate owners, developers and large retail businesses are the biggest beneficiaries of the “Broken Windows Policing” and “Stop and Frisk” approaches to maintaining order in public spaces. Segregation of the poor and people of color out of areas where property values are increasing or already high, is typically accompanied by methods of police enforcement that criminalize poor people of color’s very presence.
As police murders and abuse stir a popular movement for police accountability, corporate interests continue to preserve and expand their investments in urban centers by shifting police responsibility to private-public entities where corporate interests rule more directly. Business Improvement Districts are one such mechanism.
At a panel discussion organized by the Western Regional Advocacy Project speakers address the BIDs increasing power in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Denver and other cities and how policing is connected to racial and economic segregation, gentrification and mass incarceration.