This is how Rudy Giuliani and several other conservative city leaders have solved a lot of the problems which have plagued the inner cities since the advent of the Great Society. You could actually translate Great Society as "a society which will be so dependent upon us as their nanny that they will have no choice but to vote us into office, over and over again." That's how the Dems held the House of Representatives (the teat from whence Federal money flows) for so many years while their constituents wallowed in the despair that Public Housing and welfare heaped upon their ruined families.

The broken window syndrome is a sort of slippery slope argument. It says that if you allow one window in a building to remain broken, soon all the windows will be broken. I suppose they were talking about abandoned buildings, but it really doesn't matter: The point would be the same.

In Rudy's case, a lot of his work had to do with cleaning up the homeless vagrants who were ruining the New York experience for folks. I will never forget trying to get a sandwich downtown several years ago as a crazed, violent, filthy nutcase was jumping around on the sidewalk and spitting on everyone he could, for as long as he could hark up phlegm. Chances are good he had AIDS. This was when General David Dinkins was in power.

Say what you will about conservatives, but deep in your heart you know you'd rather live in a clean city.

Remember, a conservative is often a liberal who has been mugged or raped.

It turns out that "fixing broken windows" can be done by means other than trashing the 4th Amendment and declaring war on law-abiding citizens who happen to live on the wrong street. Boston has gotten similar results not by treating poor neighborhoods like occupied territory, but rather by working with people in poor neighborhoods. It turns out that a lot of them don't like crime either. Once the police demonstrate that they're capable of distinguishing between guilty poor people and innocent poor people -- in other words, when the police stop acting like just one more gang of thugs with a bad attitude -- everybody gets along okay. I understand that this is less aesthetically satisfying because nobody gets a broom-handle up the ass, but we're willing to surrender the aesthetic high ground to Il Duce down there in NYC if that's what it takes.

A curious side effect of Giuliani's policies is that violent crime in northeastern Pennsylvania has gone through the roof. Giuliani has not, in fact, done a damn thing to stop crime. He just shifted some of it out of his jurisdiction.

Do you really think the homeless people just vanish when you pass a law forbidding their existence? I know they're not human beings, that's obvious, even if some of them are white. They can't be human beings, because they smell funny. They have no more rights than a rock or a stray dog. So don't get me wrong, I'm not making a moral point here. It's more of a logistical thing: Mass can neither be created nor destroyed, not even by Rudy Giuliani (he tried to get that one repealed but those goofy guys at the Institute for Advanced Study are all a bunch of . . . you know . . . and they wouldn't listen). Are the homeless people still alive? If so, they've gone somewhere. It would have been more efficient to kill them. They're not productive, are they? Hardly. The vol^H^H^Hpeople of the United States must not tolerate unproductive units.
The theory itself is summed up thusly:

In a neighborhood, if a window is broken, and not fixed, those who are inclined towards petty crime (graffiti, littering, vandalism, etc.) are more likely to commit those offenses. This brings the general appearance of the neighborhood down. As the neighborhood declines, those who are inclined towards more serious crime (burglary, mugging, rape, etc.) are more likely to commit those crimes, since it appears that nobody cares. Making sure that the broken window gets fixed lowers the overall rate of crime.

I agree that the solution should be community-based, and non-coercive, if possible. Pride begets pride. If my lawn is well kept, and my neighbor's lawn is well kept, there is a peer pressure effect that encourages the other neighbors to keep their lawn up.

This all began with a 1982 article in the Atlantic Monthly called "Broken Windows." It was written by George Kelling (a criminologist) and James Wilson (a political science type) to prove their thesis that crime is not spontaneously generated. Their theory sought connection between "fear of crime and disorderly behavior."

As is mentioned in above write ups there have been numerous attempts to implement this as policy. New York City politicians are near infamous for trying to justify passing really Draconian laws by citing this thesis.

Kelling actually worked as a consultant on the New York Transit Authority's Zero Tolerance crackdown on graffitti, public urination, etc. It did significantly reduce the amount of petty crime on the subway and seemed to lower the incidences of violent crime.

Another important aspect of this thesis (perhaps what is most valuable in the pragmatic I-don't-feel-like-getting-my head-kicked-in-for-spitting-on-the-sidewalk sense) is the emphasis on decentralization of policing. Getting police officers involved in individual communities drastically reduces friction between neighborhood residents and cops. I guess it's hard to shoot a familiar face - that goes either for cops or residents.

By the way, I'm guessing that this makes people feel better but doesn't solve much.

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