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I think that is safe to say that whenever there is such a drastic sociological change to a community or environment it is rarely if ever the cause of a single reason. We can not argue if it is Broken Windows vs. Abortion but rahter that it is the combination of these with such factors as increased wealth in NYC, the fall of communism, crime peaking out, etc... that created a 'perfect storm' of coincedence's that led to this dramatic change.

It is not one or the other but simply everything happening at around the same time.

Don King

If we can't resolve this issue, let's just have Levitt & Malcom duel it out in a pay-per-view cage match.

$49.95 each to see this argument settled once a for all !!!

Rick Goulet

I think that you greatly over rate your immediate influence on behavior model. You would need a huge Police presence to get the kind of impact that you talk about. Did you have any stats on what percent of guns got removed? I can’t believe the amount would have been even large enough to impact much of any thing. So are you saying that most NYC homicide was due to average Joe’s having too much to drink? Of the homicides it would be instructive to see it broken down into 3 groups: Criminals, Gangs and Average Folks. Reducing the number of guns on the street might slow down the supply, but I can’t figure out why any of the three groups wouldn’t be able to get the guns that they wanted. Places that have lots of guns, like Colorado and Virginia, don’t seem to use them.

Generally I would think that internal factors would play a bigger role than external influences. Seeing a cop on the road might get me to obey the speed limit for a few minutes, but what I do the rest of the time is based on my internal views (and fears). Where I live I see a police car only once every few months. So the odds of getting caught speeding is extremely low. But my internal viewpoint is that I would rather not get a ticket and for me it’s just easier to drive a little slower than to have to spend any time worrying about it. So it’s my viewpoint and not the reality of the odds of getting caught or what might happen if I did get a ticket.

My guess is that the changes in big city crime is directly related to the big picture social-economic changes that cities have gone through. You can’t directly compare NYC to other big U.S. cities, be cause it isn’t like any other big U.S. city. When the idea of city living became good again, in NYC it becomes great! Compare the increase in the cost of real estate to the crime rate. As NYC becomes a great place to live, crime goes down. Yes I know I’m saying it wasn’t the drop in crime that made NYC a great place to live; even if it helps some.

What do I think happened? Computers for some reason started to drive high paying white collar jobs back to the city again. Money flows back into the city and that has a social impact. Trump becomes rich again and some of the money even flows down to the lowest levels. The average folks are happier and less drunk. More jobs mean less young people for the gangs. Less gangs equal less violent crime. Organized crime might also being going high tech now days.

I do believe in the “Broken Windows Theory” as a fix for neighborhoods, but I don’t think that it could fix the entire city.


"Broken windows" has been used in Switzerland. They try to put things back exactly the way they were.They really have quite a lot vandalism but still come across as a very peaceful,clean & neat country.
Also as someone who has spent a lot of time working with perps, I have to say that unwanted kids from big families are more likely than any other group to end up in prison.

Arnie McKinnis

I'm much to simple in my thinking, but anyone that has children understands the simplicity of the broken window theory - if you don't stop the small things from happening, then the big things will happen. And let's say that "broken window" is completly and utterly wrong, at the very least, everythings prettier.


Regarding crime I must say that I have not read the Freakanomics article in question, but I do believe that an important aspect of a mindset has NOT been included. As Russell Simmons (Hip Hop Mogul) partner for eight years in a media venture called Oneworld, one thing that I saw was a period of time where previously invisible brown-skinned people were increasingly becoming very visible and very affluent. I believe that the visibility of Russell Simmons and Puffy's of the world served for a moment as a kind of beacon that with hard work and smarts you could navigate your way from street hustler to corporate success story. Crime or being punished for a crime became a big negative in the mind of young hustlers -- they bought into that vision that a house in the Hamptons was not beyond reach. Hip hop provided a narrow yet highly visible (thanks to MTV & BET) path. Whether that continues to be the case or whether young people see this as more a dream than reality I think will have an impact on crime for years to come. If we see an upswing, I think it's because these young people who are buying into an American dream of accomplishment through hard work (hustling) don't find the opportunities that are even fairly scarce for their Hip Hop heros.

Gerard V

Why has crime rates dropped in the US since 1993? Your average citizen hasn't been given a reason to commit a crime.

It's so simple yet it's so true. Look... What would have to happen to you for you to commit a JUSTIFIABLE major crime? Desperation and Necessity. For all those who swear they're above commiting a criminal act; Let's see if you wouldn't rob a supermarket when you or your kids have gone 3 days without food...

I'm an expert in the field of human behaviorism (here's a paradox for you... If I didn't just reveal the fact that I hold no degree in psychology would I be stripped of my "expert" status in your mind? Now you know why I'm an expert!) and I will tell you that they're just as blind as intellectuals are. They don't get the fact that psychologist understand WHY we do something and intellects know why something HAPPENS... Geniuses know why people do what they do and what the actual results will be. The human instinct is survival of the fittest. If push comes to shove and I had a choice between you and me then I don't intend to lose. Our X-Factor is that we'll usually sacrifice ourselves only for our children or spouses. So, now we know why a person would commit a crime...

The consequences of commiting a crime prevents the average Joe from committing a crime, unless the benefit outweighs the punishment. So, if average Joe is dirt poor and homeless but can still feed his kids, he probably won't commit a crime. Once he can't then he probably will.

So, now that we know why the average person would commit a crime and what situation he'd have to be put into in order to actually commit that crime, we can now conclude the following...

Your average American citizen has been given less and less reasons to commit a crime from 1994 to the present. The person who you thought would NEVER wind up in jail is the one who controls the rise and fall of crime statistics.


I've been very impressed by the broken windows theory and I've thought long and hard as to what things to police in our organizaton (I'm in human resources).

The most violated policy in the organization is the use of vernacular (in this case Filipino) in the office premises (employees must speak in English always) - a requirement of the American client who outsourced their customer service department to my company.

There is a correlation (though I don't have the statistics on this) between the consistent use of English by the employees in the course of work (speaking to each other) and their ability to be understood by the Americans they speak to on the phone.

However, since English is not the first language here in the Philippines - everyone from the most senior managers to the newest entry-level staff violates an explicitly stated policy (there are posters and banners everywhere) on a daily basis (almost every time they are not speaking to an American, or their bosses - unless they are addressed by them in the vernacular first).

There is a lot of lip service for the value of the policy, but there is little actual policing done (given the number of offenses to this policy an individual makes in a day, week or month; it is logically and technically correct to suspend or terminate this individual according to policy and law).

If the broken window theory is correct, there is a correlation between the failure to police these offenses and the occurance of other more severe violations (one of which is the widespread sharing of passwords for a specific application by supervisors to curry favor from their staff - who use the application to perform serious and potentially very harmful workarounds to their jobs).

My thoughts on what to do with the policy I've written in a series of posts in my own blog.


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