Broken Windows

March 4th, 2009 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

A fascinating article in the Boston Globe:

Researchers, working with police, identified 34 crime hot spots. In half of them, authorities set to work – clearing trash from the sidewalks, fixing street lights, and sending loiterers scurrying. Abandoned buildings were secured, businesses forced to meet code, and more arrests made for misdemeanors. Mental health services and homeless aid referrals expanded.

In the remaining hot spots, normal policing and services continued. …

Controlled experiments – yay.

The results, just now circulating in law enforcement circles, are striking: A 20 percent plunge in calls to police from the parts of town that received extra attention. It is seen as strong scientific evidence that the long-debated “broken windows” theory really works – that disorderly conditions breed bad behavior, and that fixing them can help prevent crime.

A 20% fall is huge. So maybe the 300 extra frontline Police for South Auckland could be deployed to make a difference.

The study also found:

The Lowell experiment offers guidance on what seems to work best. Cleaning up the physical environment was very effective; misdemeanor arrests less so, and boosting social services had no apparent impact.

And further:

As Witts, the patrol officer, drove around the city last week, she pointed out evidence of success. A brick apartment building that once racked up 100 calls to police in a three-month period has, she said, had just one incident over the last six weeks. Gone, she noted, are the unregistered cars in the parking lot, the broken fence, and the code violations in the building – as well as problem tenants and crime.

The full article is worth a read.

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39 Responses to “Broken Windows”

  1. llew (1,286 comments) says:

    Housing NZ & other agencies (Police, local councils, and others) set up several “Urban Renewal” projects around the country over the last few years – Aranui, Glen Innes for example – they tidied the state houses, provided properties for community use (homework statiuons & community group use), fixed broken street lights, cleaned grafitti, & tried to engender some community pride.

    And they found similar results.

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  2. jacob van hartog (300 comments) says:

    gee what could be done if high risk individuals were assisted as well as the broken windows.

    Quelle Horreur!! I suppose now nationals in power is time to ditch the lock them up spin and actually try things that work.

    [DPF: What assistance would you give high risk individual that Labour did not give them?]

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  3. dad4justice (6,594 comments) says:

    jacob van farthog – I would prefer “high risk individuals” to be caring for the grounds behind prison walls and locked down in cold cells without fucking windows you demented broken arse idiot!!

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  4. Ratbiter (1,265 comments) says:

    Good to see some practical research being done to see if these crime-fighting principles work.
    There is far to much rhetoric around crime & what should be done about it, usually on pretty predictable and tired party lines.

    (PS: dad4justice calling anyone a demented idiot – priceless!)

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  5. dad4justice (6,594 comments) says:

    Ratbiter Christchurch is already the parole capital of New Zealand. I am sure the judges would welcome any assistance to reduce crime and llew the suburb of Aranui is now the most tagged capital as well. Low self esteem breeds resentment. Must go jury back in 10 minutes.

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  6. PhilBest (4,757 comments) says:

    Yep, it is great to get this discussion on the table.

    Required reading:

    “Law and Disorder: The Case For a Police Surge” by William J. Stuntz

    http://www.weeklystandard.com/Content/Public/Articles/000/000/016/157ehmas.asp

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  7. PhilBest (4,757 comments) says:

    AND:

    “New York Cops: Still The Finest” By Heather MacDonald

    http://www.city-journal.org/html/16_3_ny_cops.html

    “The Reclamation of Skid Row” By Heather MacDonald

    http://www.city-journal.org/html/17_4_skid_row.html

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  8. wreck1080 (3,999 comments) says:

    There needs to be a optimum level between the cost of clean-up policies vs crime vs imprisonment.

    Imprisonment is ideal for repeat offenders. Can’t hurt anyone there.

    The cost of clean-up may be too high.

    I say, take children off bad parents. You can spot criminals while still in the womb. I wonder if anyone did a study on THAT!!!

    Bring back corporal punishment.

    Remove social welfare from system abusers. No able bodied person should ever be on social welfare for more than 2 years. Actually, I think 6 months, but there is a recession!!.

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  9. MyNameIsJack (2,414 comments) says:

    you demented broken arse idiot!!

    has got to be worth at least double the demerits of comparing a poster to Shicklegruber.

    I would love to see if dad4justice has made more than one post per week that is a)on topic and b) free from personal abuse and foul language. He is a great example of what christianity does to humanity.

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  10. getstaffed (8,040 comments) says:

    MNIJ – any excuse to bash Christians eh? Grow up.

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  11. lofty (1,317 comments) says:

    Perhaps someone can educate me please, where do the trouble makers go?

    What do we do with them when they are moved on, its a bit like the Salt family in Auckland, where do they go? Who do they torment next? How do we stop that sort of anti social behaviour?

    How do we move from a dependant society to one of indivdual independence?

    How do we teach crims not to be so?

    What does the schooling curriculum have to be?

    how many “social workers” have to be employed to enter and teach dependant families self worth & try to put them on the road to independence?

    That sort of thing!

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  12. goodgod (1,317 comments) says:

    Every Lefty knows that fighting crime or it’s causes does not work.

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  13. MyNameIsJack (2,414 comments) says:

    getstaffed, pointing out the hypocrisy of one or more xians is not bashing xians. If they don”t like being called as hypocrites, don’t act as hypocrites. If d4j is one of yours, either get him to mend his ways or disown him. Don’t shoot me, i’m only the messenger.

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  14. goodgod (1,317 comments) says:

    Perhaps someone can educate me please, where do the trouble makers go?

    anywhere or nowhere. they have to change themselves.

    What do we do with them when they are moved on, its a bit like the Salt family in Auckland, where do they go? Who do they torment next? How do we stop that sort of anti social behaviour?

    they’re taught to change, preferably while incarcerated

    How do we move from a dependant society to one of indivdual independence?

    we have the state operate as an organisation of core infrastructure and defence services. No social services/spending. Social welfare nets are operated by private organisations with private money.

    How do we teach crims not to be so?

    see above

    What does the schooling curriculum have to be?

    Basic competency in the the Three R’s, then, co-operatively, student parent and teachers guide students into a specialist knowledge group: Sciences, arts, commerce, agriculture, sports etc. No more wasting time trying to force everyone into a square hole when they are a round peg. Basically, specialist knowledge being taught sooner, with the purpose being financial viability. The fifth form (or whatever it is called now) of high school is devoted completely to owning/running your own business.

    how many “social workers” have to be employed to enter and teach dependant families self worth & try to put them on the road to independence?

    None. See above.

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  15. senzafine (457 comments) says:

    He is a great example of what christianity does to humanity

    Such a statement qualifies you for the term “bigot”. You may not realise it, and you may repudiate it. But that is what you are.

    big·ot: a person obstinately or intolerantly devoted to his or her own opinions and prejudices ; especially : one who regards or treats the members of a group (such as a racial or ethnic group) with hatred and intoleranc

    getstaffed, pointing out the hypocrisy of one or more xians is not bashing xians. If they don”t like being called as hypocrites, don’t act as hypocrites. If d4j is one of yours, either get him to mend his ways or disown him. Don’t shoot me, i’m only the messenger.

    A Messenger of Bigotry. Well done.

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  16. MyNameIsJack (2,414 comments) says:

    So, if I was to say of Martin Luther King He is a great example of what christianity does to humanity, would that also qualify me as a bigot, or would that be OK because it conforms to your prejudices?

    You might be OK with d4j’s rants, but in my book, he IS a hypocrite. Call me a bigot if you wish, but that’s OK, I’d rather be a bigot than a xian hypocrite any day.

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  17. village idiot (748 comments) says:

    The solution then, is to replace the police with glaziers.

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  18. lofty (1,317 comments) says:

    Thanks goodgod,
    I find myself agreeing with most of your points.
    But..you are missing capital punishment as a part solution.
    The 5 form year .. business studies and savings discipline.
    Its a bit like going back to the future, where when I was at school; you were either in a “technical” class or in an “Economics” class, either way you learnt good work skills.
    Oh yeah and we had bank books from the ASB and we had to put some pocket money in each week, to learn savings skills.
    Great days

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  19. Manolo (14,161 comments) says:

    Nothing will get better in South Auckland until the welfare state that provides support to most of these criminals is drastically reformed. Idle people from disfunctional families receiving the DPB, invalid benefits, etc, are more prone to crime than the working sectors of the population.

    Of course, and in view of its political consequences, it would require the political will that the National Party appears to lack. I wish I were wrong.

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  20. Ryan Sproull (7,360 comments) says:

    By changing the environment they’ve caused people to act differently?

    Hah! What nonsense! People have free will, after all.

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  21. Brian Smaller (3,965 comments) says:

    Manolo – I don’t think you are wrong.

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  22. baxter (753 comments) says:

    I don’t believe the Broken Windows would work unless offenders are brought before a court and dealt with as soon as possible after committing an offence. There would need to be the “Judge Judy’ night court approach with a Public Defender availiable. The evidence should be heard immediately from the arresting Constable and the defense, if, any heard straight after.Penalties would need to be immediate and appropriate to the offence, not to irrelevant cultural,social or financial deprivation. Thats almost the way it used to be in the days of the stipendiary Magistrate its been all downhill since that era. Under the current all rights and legal aid process even the first minor offences would tie up the courts six months ahead with 90% of cases pleading Not Guilty, contrived defences relying on the murk of the passage of time and contested memories.

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  23. MyNameIsJack (2,414 comments) says:

    Idle people from disfunctional families… is easy to say, but how do you stop these people from being idle, from creating dysfunctional families?

    Where are the factory jobs theese people would once have held? China.

    If the nation decides to destroy its manufacturing base, decides to automate the jobs once done by those at the bottom (eg lift drivers, road sweepers, etc) then the state needs to provide an alternative income source and live with the consequences of idle people on benefits.

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  24. Rex Widerstrom (5,013 comments) says:

    Ryan Sproull says:

    By changing the environment they’ve caused people to act differently? Hah! What nonsense! People have free will, after all.

    DPF is quoting a controlled study, Ryan. How much evidence do you want?

    Yes people have free will, but they also have psychological triggers that are affected by their immediate environment (e.g. some colours are known to be more calming than others, and are thus used to paint the walls in high-stress environments).

    “Broken Windows” has been round long enough now that it’s efficacy is broadly accepted (though the extent of that efficacy is still debated). But compared to locking people in maximum security for 25 years to life it’s far more cost-effective. And most importantly, it intervenes before there’s a string of victims on the way to someone’s “third strike”.

    baxter notes some important qualifications though. We need to be willing to trade some things for others… these offences need to be dealt with swiftly and the penalties appropriate (including, I’d suggest, being sentenced to work teams who spend their days improving the neighbourhood. You’re unlikely to want to break the windows you spent weeks repairing, and won’t look kindly on those of your mates who do).

    In short, Broken Windows works if we’re prepared to accept swift, summary and (by today’s standards) “harsh” penalties for minor offences. In return a far smaller proportion of “window breakers” end up subject to the kind of “lock ‘em up and throw away the key” penalties that Act and it’s SST wing seem hell-bent on promoting.

    Of course “Broken Windows” only works if government is also prepared to invest in actually fixing the windows, as in the study DPF has cited. And considering a raft of related issues including – as MNIJ rightly raises – not selling the jobs that would keep unskilled people in work, and thus too busy to break any windows in the first place.

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  25. Ryan Sproull (7,360 comments) says:

    Rex,

    If the only thing that has changed is the environment, and people acted differently after it was changed, you’re claiming a cause-and-effect relationship between changing the environment and people’s actions. If you can press a button and change people’s actions, where’s free will?

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  26. PhilBest (4,757 comments) says:

    Ryan, the dynamic that is at work here, is that the presence of police and commercial and social activity and decent people going about their lives, has an emboldening affect on the decent people and a deterrent effect on the crooks.

    Read those essays I linked to early in the thread. I wish a few people would likewise read them and comment.

    Believe it or not, the NYPD actually acted in an advisory role to the US military in Iraq about this.

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  27. gd (1,780 comments) says:

    Baxter Good points When my late Dad was growing up in central Auckland in the late 1920s early 1930s the local copper was Bruiser Johnson. Dad told me that if Bruiser caught the kids doing the same as kids do these days (sans the drugs knivings etc) he would take off his belt and give them a wack and tell him if he cought them again he would tell their father.

    Today Brusier wopuld be up in Court after the little bastards had told him their rights to do what ever thye wished and to FOXTROT OSCAR

    Oh and of course thye would have a father Only a series of MUms boyfriends.

    Reason Lack of self discipline

    Lack of self control

    Soft cocks many who pollute this site and others with their selfish anything goes everyone has rights noone has responsibilities bullshit

    The reason we are in the bloody social mess is because we dont have Bruiser Johnsons to teach the kids the error of their ways

    The first they find out is when they are sentenced to a long stretch in maximum.

    But of course they have their rights dont they arseholes

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  28. PhilBest (4,757 comments) says:

    Rex Widerstrom: “…..Of course “Broken Windows” only works if government is also prepared to invest in actually fixing the windows, as in the study DPF has cited. And considering a raft of related issues including – as MNIJ rightly raises – not selling the jobs that would keep unskilled people in work, and thus too busy to break any windows in the first place…..”

    And the government has to be prepared to invest in the police numbers that make all this work. Also, keeping the police free of corruption is essential.

    On jobs for the poor, Rex, I suggest you read “Scratching By: How Government Creates Poverty as We Know It” by Charles Johnson. The biggest problem when it comes to work for the poor, is that all the luxurious wealthy first world country rules and regulations and fees and compliance costs, have knocked the bottom 4 rungs out of the ladder of social mobility.

    I believe you as an individual do really care about these things, and I think you will find that essay an eye-opener.

    http://www.heartland.org/custom/semod_policybot/pdf/22828.pdf

    Please do also read the essays I linked to early in the thread. These issues are closely connected with each other.

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  29. Christopher (425 comments) says:

    In return a far smaller proportion of “window breakers” end up subject to the kind of “lock ‘em up and throw away the key” penalties that Act and it’s SST wing seem hell-bent on promoting.

    May I respectfully suggest that you actually investigate the SST’s policies before you bag them?

    The SST has advocated for a “Broken Windows” policy since before its successful introduction in New York.

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  30. Rex Widerstrom (5,013 comments) says:

    Christopher:

    I know. So why write the punitive and unsuccessful (based on overseas experience) “3 strikes” law in as a non-negotiable part of the deal with National, and not the successful (also based on overseas experience) “Broken Windows” law?

    That they’re aware of the efficacy of it but happy to see it languish suggests that either a) they’re just shameless vote-chasing from rednecks, or b) they really believe, as Garrett is fond of saying, that people “have too many rights” and are “scumbags” or c) both.

    I asked Rodeny on another thread why this was so and he answered, reasonably enough, “we’re only 3.6% we can’t do everything”, or words to that effect.

    Clearly the SST have extracted Act’s support for this law as the price of their support so – being a political realist – I put the blame squarely at the feet of Garrett and the SST, not Rodney and Act – many of whom, like Lindsay Mitchell and her husband are squirming with embarrassment over Garrett’s deranged need to work out his psychological hang-ups on other people.

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  31. Rex Widerstrom (5,013 comments) says:

    PhilBest:

    Thanks for those links. I have a deadline bearing down upon me but will certainly read anything related to this topic. I’ve skim-read “Scratching By” and, briefly, I essentially agree with it with one proviso – govermment has been in the way for so long, it’s unreasonable to think one can just remove all the restrictions round earning money, using land, who you live with (and the vast array of other busy-body laws the article rightly highlights) and expect things to right themselves. So I see what it advocates as part of a wider solution rather than a solution in and of itself.

    And I wholeheartedly agree that more Police are a fundamental key to the success of Broken Windows – and gratified to see you add that they need to be not corrupt. I’d go a step further and say they need to be actively identified with not harassing otherwise innocent citiens for minor infractions like driving a few kms over the limit.

    The kind of policeman gd describes didn’t just win respect by booting arses. he also won it because he lived in a police house in the community he served, walked round it (not sped round it with his lights flashing and sirens screaming, adrenalin pumping, just because someone didn’t come to a complete stop at a “stop” sign), and didn’t hand out tickets to our mums and dads for bullshit “offences”. Thus we all grew up respecting him – even me.

    Ryan Sproull:

    Of course people retain free will but it can be strongly influenced by all sorts of psychological factors including environment. Just how strongly depends on the individual – some people are highly wilful while others respond like Pavlov’s dogs. Very broadly speaking, given the right stimuli persons who are less educated are more prone to be influenced – not because they’re “dumb” but simply because they’re less aware of the manipulation.

    When I say “environment” in this context I’m not just talking built environment. Broken Windows is about more than actual broken windows. It’s about police visibility, attitudes and responses. About community attitudes. About the responses of a whole range of government agencies. And so on.

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  32. Patrick Starr (3,674 comments) says:

    “Where are the factory jobs theese people would once have held? China”

    Of course there is no analysis to back that up. Have you ever seen any stats what proportion of these young crims are from single parent families-? raised on the DPB-?

    most of these dysfunctional families have never had jobs – I’d suggest most of them are single parent dysfunctional families because the government pays them to become single parent families

    Many of these Sth Auckland baby factories made the decision to to have kids to have an easy income. The DPB has become a way of life

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  33. grumpyoldhori (2,205 comments) says:

    Harsh penalties, wow, like rioting charges for well educated students who have no bloody excuse ?
    I’m damn sure if the cops went in and broke a few heads among rioting students we would hear the screams of police brutality.
    Yet, the poor and uneducated should know better than those couch burning students, something is the wrong way round.

    Broken windows, night courts, why not, but at same bloody time get rid of rubbish painted on fences etc as soon as it appears.

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  34. Christopher (425 comments) says:

    Clearly the SST have extracted Act’s support for this law as the price of their support so – being a political realist – I put the blame squarely at the feet of Garrett and the SST, not Rodney and Act – many of whom, like Lindsay Mitchell and her husband are squirming with embarrassment over Garrett’s deranged need to work out his psychological hang-ups on other people.

    As excited as I was to see a SST member in parliament, don’t believe personally that garrett is an effective advocate for the policies of the SST, nor do I believe that his views reflect those of the Trust’s membership.

    I do not agree with the “three strikes” law necessarily – I believe it would be far more effective to simply triple the length of every sentence for violent and sexual offences and not allow sentences to be served concurrently.

    However, what is undeniably true is that given a binary choice between having the three strikes law and the status quo, the three strikes law is the best option.

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  35. OECD rank 22 kiwi (2,760 comments) says:

    Sounds like an avenue of investigation for the National/ACT Government who at least demonstrates they are serious about tackling Law and Order, unlike an incompetent Labour.

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  36. goodgod (1,317 comments) says:

    ACT are serious about tackling law and order, National are yet to prove they are.

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  37. goodgod (1,317 comments) says:

    Yet, the poor and uneducated should know better than those couch burning students, something is the wrong way round.

    To be a good lefty, you have to believe that the poor are dumb as fuck who need protection and rescuing. I assure you, in the real world, many of them can and do run mental circles round your average couch burner or company CEO. Smarts alone do not make you rich. Step out into the real world sometime.

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  38. PhilBest (4,757 comments) says:

    Thanks for that 6.14 comment, Rex Widerstrom. Agree, agree, agree.

    Did you see THIS comment from me the other day?

    http://www.kiwiblog.co.nz/2009/03/general_debate_2_march_2009.html#comment-538535

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  39. Rex Widerstrom (5,013 comments) says:

    Missed it at the time, PhilBest, but you’ve pretty much nailed it I’d say.

    The SST are starting at the wrong end of the problem and it angers me no end that they’ve forced Act to play one of it’s very limited number of bargaining chips to force the enactment of a “3 strikes law” when they could have used it to bring about the introduction of a “Broken Windows” policy which they claim to support. That, to me, confirms them as headline-hungry hypocrites.

    “Three strikes” isn’t just the ambulance at the bottom of the cliff… it’s admitting that the top of the cliff is beyond repair and should be left to burn. “Broken Windows” brings order to the clifftop, so very, very few offenders fall off the cliff. And more importantly, it becomes a safe and humane place in which to live.

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