1.06.2009

They have a name for it

The idea that maintaining a city's cleanliness and quality of life helps to keep the crime rate low is called the broken windows theory. And! It's apparently been called this since the 80s, when George Kelling and James Wilson wrote an article called Broken Windows for The Atlantic in 1982.

I've been mildly curious about cities that build their policies around this principle to reduce crime since I first heard about about the transit authority cleaning up the graffiti in New York subways in the 90s, among the many additional efforts made thereafter. There has been some experimentation and a lot of debate about its effectiveness (pro and con) over the years, as well as alternative explanations for the drop in crime in NYC. The same types of questions are being asked in Minneapolis, where the theory has been put into practice.

There are probably multiple factors that go into the crime rate, and I for one don't think anything can be attributed to one factor or practice alone. But, that's more than I want to write about today. Today, I'm just glad to have a name for it.

Except to add that I stumbled across this great discussion starter about how the theory applies to social networking sites. I hadn't ever really thought about it, but as much time as I spend online, I don't use a huge variety of sites, and my personal experience with online vandalism is limited to comment spam.

1 comment:

geeksinrome said...

very interesting topic!! Italy is one giant broken window with litter everywhere. you can really tell people feel compeled to not litter when they go to a more touristy place that invests in keeping itself clean.

BTW I heard about you from Ann at Tragic optimist.