Broken Windows

Lesson 3: Topic 7 of 9

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Have you heard of the Broken Window Theory of policing? Implemented at multiple urban areas worldwide toward the end of the 20th Century, it was made famous (or infamous) by New York City’s Rudolph Giuliani. He was mayor during the late ‘90s and crime there at that time was rampant. Giuliani was a huge proponent of the idea that tolerating minor infractions such as decaying buildings, vandalism, and aggressive panhandling sends a signal that the community is not in control, and thus encourages more serious crimes like assault, rape, and murder. That which is abandoned and neglected becomes a target for destruction. 

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The reverse, as the theory goes, is also true. A strong and ordered community deters crime because its people and property are valued. Therefore implementing the Broken Window theory meant various regulations were enacted to require businesses and homeowners to maintain their properties. Graffiti was not tolerated and any damage had to be repaired quickly. Simultaneously, patrolling on foot (to enhance law enforcement visibility) increased and police began targeting low-level criminal activity. As residents experienced less fear, they became more involved in their neighborhoods and began to hold each other accountable for communal well-being, which further reduced the rate of felonies and misdemeanors. 

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There is argument to this day about whether or not the one led to the other, or if the two were coincidental. We don’t want to debate the issue here, we just want to point out that it couldn’t hurt to maintain the look and environmental controls at your buildings. Not doing so may invite trouble, and doing so may save a great deal of grief.