“Broken Window Theory,” Minneapolis-Style
A successful strategy for preventing vandalism is to fix the problems when they are small. Repair the broken windows within a short time, say, a day or a week, and the tendency is that vandals are much less likely to break more windows or do further damage. Clean up the sidewalk every day, and the tendency is for litter not to accumulate (or for the rate of littering to be much less). Problems do not escalate and thus respectable residents do not flee a neighborhood.
–book review discussing “Broken Windows,” by James Q. Wilson and George L. Kelling
Experts are still debating exactly why New York City crime dropped so dramatically beginning in the early 1990’s (and has largely stayed down since). However, one of the leading theories credits the “broken window” philosophy of law enforcement embraced by then-police chief William Bratton (appointed by Mayor Rudy Guiliani).
The essence of the broken window theory is, “take care of the little stuff, and the big stuff takes care of itself.”
Who watches the “little stuff” on a local level?
Active, vigilant neighborhood associations.
Almost immediately after a string of neighborhood petty thefts recently, I received multiple, email alerts from various neighbors.
The email’s discussed what happened, where, and when; suggested preventive measures to take; and involved the Minneapolis police in a proactive way.
As a result, the police are stepping up street patrols for now, and a police representative will be attending the next neighborhood association meeting to give a follow-up report.