Broken Windows

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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