A blog about living in Aberdeen, New Jersey.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Broken Windows in a Spray Can

James Q Wilson, in his foreword to Fixing Broken Windows (1996), reminds us that the battle to protect the community begins with the little things, like broken windows in an abandoned factory, or graffiti on a seawall promenade.

The title -- Fixing Broken Windows is an allusion to an essay Kelling and I published in The Atlantic Monthly in March 1982. We used the image of broken windows to explain how neighborhoods might decay into disorder and even crime if no one attends faithfully to their maintenance. If a factory or office window is broken, passersby observing it will conclude that no one cares or no one is in charge. In time, a few will begin throwing rocks to break more windows. Soon all the windows will be broken, and now passersby will think that, not only is no one in charge of the building, no one is in charge of the street on which it faces. Only the young, the criminal, or the foolhardy have any business on an unprotected avenue, and so more and more citizens will abandon the street to those they assume prowl it. Small disorders lead to larger and larger ones, and perhaps even to crime.

If you're interested in further information, read Atlantic Monthly's interview of the authors of Fixing Broken Windows, including Wilson's partner in the 1982 article, George L Kelling,


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