Broken Windows

CJ; 421

    What causes some neighborhoods to thrive, while others decay? It's a question that social scientists have asked themselves for decades and it led them to the Broken Windows theory. The theory that ignoring the little problems, graffiti, litter, shattered glass creates a sense of irreversible decline that leads people to abandon the community or to stay away. That theory, in turn, spawned a revolution in law enforcement and neighborhood activism. If a building has broken windows, get building owners to replace them. Graffiti on the walls, Scrub them clean them and then get tough with graffiti artists. Abandoned cars? Haul them away. Drunks on the sidewalks, get them off the streets, too. The notion of broken windows has provided important insights and innovation to the field of policing. At times, however, these ideas have been misunderstood, misapplied, and often viewed outside the context of community policing. Broken windows is based on the notion that signs of broken windows, signify that nobody cares, which leads to greater fear of crime and a reduction of a safer community.
    For police, the insight of broken windows is that they are called on to address minor offenses and incidents of disorder to prevent more serious crime. And that they must take steps to increase their presence in communities and to try and maintain some control in the community. Many of the officers disliked foot patrols because it was hard work and it kept them outside on cold, rainy nights, and it reduced their chances for making legitimate arrests.   In some departments, assigning officers to foot patrol had been used as a form of punishment. And academic experts on policing doubted that foot patrol would have any impact on crime rates.
      They were right. Foot patrol had not reduced crime rates. But residents of the foot patrolled neighborhoods seemed to feel more secure than people in other areas, tended to believe that crime had been...