Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Broken Window Theory

When Rudy Giuliani became mayor of New York City, he enacted a number of major reforms based on "Broken Window Theory." An ultra-simplified version of the theory might be summarized as "Small crimes lead to big crimes." A broken window (vandalism) leads to the presence of junkies (since clearly no one is there to fix the window) leads to the presence of drug dealers and mobsters leads to violence on the streets as gangs clash, leads to murder.

Giuliani's work in NYC speaks for itself. After riots in the streets under his predecessor, New York reached historic lows for crime and especially violent crime. And his successor has kept crime low, despite the economic pressures of the Great Recession.

Unfortunately, many communities have apparently not learned the lessons of NYC. In order to meet the budget, they are now openly announcing that reports of "minor" crimes will be ignored, as the police force focuses on "major" or "violent" crimes. If "Broken Window Theory" is right, we know what to expect afterward. A marked increase in all kinds of crime, which the cash-strapped, under-manned police force will be even less able to handle.

Cutting waste is one thing. But in our quest for austerity, we must remember the essential services that a society exists to provide. Safety and security is at the top of that list.


Rob said...

Malcolm Gladwell does a good job describing this theory in his book, "The Tipping Point."

Personally, I am looking to apply this theory to software development at my company. If we do not "fix the windows" of features that need to be revisited and the experience made better, then people will not like the overall quality of the product (at least that's the hypothesis).

BH said...

Here is a case of the gov abandoning their duty (keeping citizens safe) to perpetuate their sickness (welfare) .

We live in crazy times.