Crime

Is Crime Contagious?

Experiments vindicate the broken windows theory of how disorder spreads

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New York City was a mess in the 1980s. I know because I lived in the East Village for a good stretch of that decade. Fortunately, my apartment building was on the marijuana block (the crack block was two over), so things were relatively mellow. My building's first story was covered in graffiti. Bums (I mean homeless men) often curled up on the floor of the foyer to sleep when it got cold. A shanty town sheltering 100 homeless people established itself in nearby Tompkins Square Park. All of the cars on my block had signs in their windows reading, "Don't Bother. Radio Already Stolen."

Nearly every subway car was decorated with graffiti. (There was fun graffiti. Artist Keith Haring used chalk to draw his own urban hieroglyphics on the black paper used to cover up old advertisements in subway stations. If only I had managed to peel one off and take it home.) Of course, drivers in New York also had windshield cleaning services offered by legions of squeegee men. And we attended poetry slams in Alphabet City bars like the appropriately named Safety in Numbers. The crime rate was legendary, inspiring many New Yorkers to celebrate "subway vigilante" Bernhard Goetz for shooting four men he said were trying to rob him. Nevertheless, I loved New York (and still do).

But what explains the disorder in Gotham and other American cities? In 1982, two social scientists, George L. Kelling at Rutgers University and James Q. Wilson at Harvard University, proposed the "broken windows theory" to explain both how disorder spreads and how it is sustained. In The Atlantic Monthly, the two asserted that "disorder and crime are usually inextricably linked, in a kind of developmental sequence. Social psychologists and police officers tend to agree that if a window in a building is broken and is left unrepaired, all the rest of the windows will soon be broken….one unrepaired broken window is a signal that no one cares, and so breaking more windows costs nothing." Before I moved to the East Village, for instance, I was sleeping on a friend's couch in the north Bronx. Everyday, I took the train past miles of abandoned apartment buildings where the city had replaced thousands of broken windows with plywood painted to look like real windows. Some even featured silhouettes of people and potted plants. They fooled no one.

The idea behind the broken windows theory is that if people look around and see other people violating norms, they will tend to violate them as well. In the 1980s and 1990s, city governments and police departments stepped up their enforcement measures against petty crimes, such as painting graffiti, panhandling, littering, and subway fare jumping. The hope was that by minimizing public disorder, the police would help communities create crime-deterrent environments. Most of the evidence for the value of this kind of policing is based on studies of what happened to crime rates once police began to crack down on incivilities. In recent years, some analyses have questioned the broken windows theory as a strategy for effective policing.

Now, a new study (additional online info here) published in Science provides some strong experimental backing for the broken windows theory. Dutch researchers from the University of Groningen, led by social scientist Kees Keizer. conducted six experiments to see if signs of disorder would encourage people to engage in norm violation themselves. The short answer: Yes.

In the first study, the setting was an alley in Groningen near a shopping district that is commonly used to park bicycles. A prominent sign in the alley prohibits graffiti. The researchers used rubber bands to attach flyers to the handlebars of each bike wishing shoppers a happy holiday from a non-existent sportswear store. The researchers monitored what the bikers did with the flyers when the wall in the alley was free of graffiti and when it was covered with it. The result: only 33 percent littered when the alley was graffiti free whereas 69 percent did when graffiti was present.

In a second study, the researchers set up a temporary fence closing off the main entrance to a car park. But they left a 20-inch gap in the fence with two signs posted in the immediate vicinity—one sign forbade locking bicycles to the fence and the other prohibited the use of the closed entrance and directed people to another entrance about 200 yards away. When four bikes were parked but not locked to the fence, only 27 percent of people stepped through the gap to go to their cars. When the bikes were locked to the fence, 82 percent walked through the prohibited gap.

In a third study, the researchers set up a situation in which a grocery store posted a sign in a parking garage asking people to please return their shopping carts to the store. They then put the same holiday greeting flyers as in the first experiment under the windshield wipers of cars. When no shopping carts were in the garage, 30 percent littered and when shopping carts were present, 58 percent littered.

Do only visual cues trigger disorder? In the Netherlands, very strict laws forbid setting off fireworks in the weeks before New Year's Eve. So the researchers lit fire crackers out of view of people picking up their bikes from a busy parking shed near a train station. Once again, the bikes had those flyers attached to them. When no fire crackers were set off, 52 percent littered, but 80 percent did when they heard the bangs.

In the final two studies, the researchers wanted to see if signs of disorder would induce people to steal. They left an addressed envelope with a transparent window hanging out of a mail box with a five Euro note clearly visible inside. In one case, the mail box was graffiti free and the area around it was clear of litter. Only 13 percent of people stole the envelope. When the mailbox was covered with graffiti, 27 percent stole the money. When the area around the mailbox was littered, 25 percent took the envelope. The researchers report, "We found that when people observe that others violated a certain social norm or legitimate rule, they are more likely to violate even other norms or rules, which causes disorder to spread."

As a fairly frequent visitor to New York, I can attest that much of the city has been transformed in the past two decades. My old block in the East Village is now graffiti free and lined with trees, shops, and restaurants. How much credit to give to policing based on the insights of the broken window theory for lower crime rates is controversial, but this new study shows that the theory deserves some. As the Dutch researchers conclude: "There is a clear message for policy makers and police officers: Early disorder diagnosis and intervention are of vital importance when fighting the spread of disorder."

Ronald Bailey is reason's science correspondent. His book Liberation Biology: The Scientific and Moral Case for the Biotech Revolution is now available from Prometheus Books.

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  1. Ron with The Warriors reference. Nice.

  2. These police statists are crushing my liberties, AARRGHH! *sniffs spray paint from bag*

  3. This further confirms my sense that we as a society need to stop over-criminalizing petty actions.

    When everything is against the law, no one respects the law, since there’s so much BS contained therein. Too bad the nanny staters on the left and the fundies on the right don’t get this.

  4. Great, let’s apply the theory to those who police us.

  5. No name guy’s hypothesis is not directly related, but should be examined to flesh out the contours of this effect.

    Clearly we learn our behavioral boundaries from our experiences in the world. And clearly those boundaries are context dependent and fleeting.

    This seems directly related to mob violence, riots, looting, etc.

  6. My sense is that there are diminishing returns the more rigorous the enforcement of petty crimes and misdemeanors. It also depends on the value society places on uniformity and group loyalty.

    I think that value reached a peak in the United States in the 1940s and 50s. While crime has gone down in the U.S. over the last 30 years, I don’t think it signals a return to the uniformity that existed in the 50s.

  7. All of the tests–except the stealing–dealt with the tragedy of the commons. Littering and walking through a public fence are both signs of people seeing others not respect the commons and therefore don’t respect it themselves.

    This is very different from crime. While I can certainly see where a mugger might feel more confident in a graffiti-covered alley because it seems like no one cares what goes on in it, that is very different from people dropping flyers that they didn’t ask be put on their property in the first place.

  8. Fortunately, my apartment building was on the marijuana block

    Braggart.

  9. “violating social or legal norms”

    Makes one wonder how activities that are legal but socially taboo fit in.

    Seems the studies focused on situations where either laws or clearly stated rules were being broken.

    I would think this might suggest a transitional stage for currently illegal drugs were they to be legalized. At first their presence might create the feeling that rules were, and therefore could be, broken, but eventually their use and presence would likely be considered more normal and more no big deal and thus no problemo. I would think…

  10. Whadda you, going faggot on me Bailey?

  11. The final episode of The Shield tonight. Anyone else watching?

  12. Good points, Episiarch.

    The experiments also don’t measure the costs of the actual enforcement measures that are advocated to keep the “windows” from getting “broken” in the real world. In the experiments, they just aren’t.

  13. I think that value reached a peak in the United States in the 1940s and 50s. While crime has gone down in the U.S. over the last 30 years, I don’t think it signals a return to the uniformity that existed in the 50s.

    It doesn’t. Why do you think Reason always uses the 1970’s as the baseline when quantifying social ills, instead of a date that precedes the hedonist’s Great Leap Forward, the 1960’s? Because they know damn well that if you were to compare the present to any time before the 1960’s, we’d still look bloody awful, regardless of how much we’ve improved since the 1970’s.

  14. Shit, dbcooper! The chicks are packed! The chicks are packed!

  15. *Breaks chair on imaginary reason female commenter’s head*

  16. if people look around and see other people violating social or legal norms, they will tend to violate them as well

    Fuckity-fuckity fuck fuck! Poo-poo! CA-CA!

  17. They need a new name for their theory… I’m getting it confused with The Broken Window Fallacy.

    How about Dogshit on the Sidewalk Theory?

  18. [elitist Leftist voice]

    But should we really blame individuals for the failures of society?

    [/elitist Leftist voice]

  19. “Do only visual cues trigger disorder? In the Netherlands, very strict laws forbid setting off fireworks in the weeks before New Year’s Eve. So the researchers lit fire crackers out of view of people picking up their bikes from a busy parking shed near a train station. Once again, the bikes had those flyers attached to them. When no fire crackers were set off, 52 percent littered, but 80 percent did when they heard the bangs.”

    Wohoo!!! Let’s ban everything fun and we’ll live in a perfect, sanitized world lined with coffee shops and upscale boutiques!

  20. Because they know damn well that if you were to compare the present to any time before the 1960’s, we’d still look bloody awful, regardless of how much we’ve improved since the 1970’s.

    True, but the 1950s crime rates were kept artificially low via statistical dodges like “lynching is legal” and “rape victims know better than to complain about it” and “if a man wants to beat his wife and kids that’s his business.”

  21. My memory is failing me, or maybe not.

    Isn’t the Netherlands where they sell fireworks at the post office and any-old-day is cause for a celebration and weed?

    Perhaps it was another old europe country Emmanuel Goldstein was talkign about on Off the Hook a few years ago, or it changed since then.

  22. Well, isn’t Ronnie so effing smart, with his “scientific method,” and “testable hypotheses.” I refuse to allow this to impact my consciousness in any way. Thought Shield on!

  23. Here’s another idea: how about letting property owners maintain their own property as they please, prosecute property violators when you can, and stop socializing the perfect Mr. Clean nanny state.

    All this utilitarian methodology does is encourage dipshit regulations like the banning of fireworks and requiring people mow their lawns or face property confiscation. Sooner or later you’ll wind up with a totalitarian nanny state where freedom has suffered the death of a thousand cuts.

    “Oh! Since this study shows 15% increase in reduction in crime if we ban X and enforce Y behavior, let’s do it!”

  24. I don’t think this has to vindicate thuggish over-policing: I think the main value of the broken windows theory (of crime and disorder) is (IMO, the obvious conclusion) that people who live in a community must care for that community like they own it. They may not have title to the park down the street, but they have to somehow keep it looking nice; they may not have badges, but they must keep vagrants from sleeping in gutters; etc.

  25. Wohoo!!! Let’s ban everything fun and we’ll live in a perfect, sanitized world lined with coffee shops and upscale boutiques!

    Amsterdam, within easy walking distance of the central train station: Coffee houses where you can buy weed as well as sex shops and hookers in windows.

    Also very clean and very safe. You could do a lot worse.

  26. “if a man wants to beat his wife and kids that’s his business.”

    Spoil sport!

  27. Close to where I live, people feel free to piss by the side of the street in full view of passing cars– at least they have the decency to turn their backs.
    Its a pretty normal occurence- in fact, I just saw someone doing it this morning.

    This has escalated to the point where I have seen a guy just pull down his pants (right next to a highway road in the middle of the afternoon) and take a diahrrea dump.
    I will never forget the unpleasant image.

    I’d so prefer to “live in a perfect, sanitized world lined with coffee shops and upscale boutiques!”
    I need to move soon. (*sigh)

  28. Jennifer,

    True, but the 1950s crime rates were kept artificially low via statistical dodges like “lynching is legal” and “rape victims know better than to complain about it” and “if a man wants to beat his wife and kids that’s his business.”

    Such vagaries disappear in the case of murder. It’s hard to ignore a body. Murder is therefor the best historical indicator of crime rates.

    Murder rates where lower in the 50’s than after the “reforms” of the 60’s. Clearly, bad policy based on academic theories instead of real world experience led to an explosion of crime that ended only when we returned to more time tested models f crime fighting.

  29. rana, I thought you lived in Venezuela, not L.A.

  30. All this chitter-chatter, chitter-chatter, chitter-chatter bout
    Shmatta, shmatta, shmatta — I can’t give it away on 7th Avenue
    This town’s wearing tatters
    Uh huh

  31. “I’d so prefer to “live in a perfect, sanitized world lined with coffee shops and upscale boutiques!”
    I need to move soon.”

    Every upscale neighborhood has its price (in terms of cost and loss of freedom): typically outrageously high rents, onerous taxes, and parking regulations that make you wish you’d never bought a car. It gets old real fast, particularly when you realize that the cute little boutiques never sell anything that you want to buy anyway (unless you make 300 grand a year maybe).

  32. The “Warriors” has to be seen again.
    It is hysterical. I first saw it when it came out, I was like 12, and it really scared me.
    I saw it again on DVD in July.(I got the DVD free).
    It was a laugh riot. And the gay influence, wow. I mean the “gang” customs look like they were created by the village people with the help of broadway.
    I highly, highly recommand it for the laughs and the bad acting.
    Hard to believe that this film was pulled from theaters because it started fights.

  33. Looks like my last attempt didn’t go through –

    But thank you, Ron Bailey. Now, someone please contact NORML, and tell them to stop sneering at the broken-windows theory. (They can continue to sneer at people who think that pot smoking count as a “broken window”.)

  34. Every upscale neighborhood has its price (in terms of cost and loss of freedom): typically outrageously high rents, onerous taxes, and parking regulations that make you wish you’d never bought a car.

    Or you could leave the cesspools that people call cities and go live in the semi-rural midwest.

  35. “rana, I thought you lived in Venezuela, not L.A.”

    LOL Epi.
    Actually, my sister lives in L.A. so she knows things can get pretty bad but while she was visiting me last December the “pissing on the street” escalated to a point that not even I could believe:
    We were driving through a barrio on a Thursday around 4pm. We were stuck in heavy traffic. There was a “camionetica” (shoddy, makeshift, public transportation bus) ahead of us. Beer bottles were thrown out the windows constantly. Then when traffic came to a standstill, about 6 passengers came out of the bus and started pissing in the brush next to the road, right in front of us! Traffic started to move and the bus almost left behind one guy who took an unusually long time to drain his pipe.
    My sister said that she would not have believed this story had she not seen it herself.

    But my personal fave “pissing on the street story” was the time I saw a guy pissing FROM the “camionetica” while it was moving! That was quite a sight!

  36. are you saying there’s something inherently funny in the idea of a gang that wears top hats called the high hats?

  37. True, but the 1950s crime rates were kept artificially low via statistical dodges like “lynching is legal” and “rape victims know better than to complain about it” and “if a man wants to beat his wife and kids that’s his business.”

    Lynching was neither “legal” or common in the 1950s.

    Lynching statistics by year in the 1950s:
    1st # whites
    2nd# Blacks
    3rd# Total

    1950
    1

    1

    2
    1951
    0

    1

    1
    1952
    0

    0

    0
    1953
    0

    0

    0
    1954
    0

    0

    0
    1955
    0

    3

    3
    1956
    0

    0

    0
    1957
    1

    0

    1
    1958
    0

    0

    0
    1959
    0

    1

    1

    If anything crime was exaggerated in the 1950s with the hysteria over juvenile delinquents, hot rodders and switchblades.

  38. That table didn’t C&P very well.My apologies.

  39. “Or you could leave the cesspools that people call cities and go live in the semi-rural midwest.”

    Funny that you mention that, because it’s precisely what I did. Only, I live within biking distance of a downtown that is just as charming as the North Side of Chicago.

  40. Or you could leave the cesspools that people call cities and go live in the semi-rural midwest.

    pass

  41. Guy Montag | November 25, 2008, 3:44pm | #

    [elitist Leftist voice]

    But should we really blame individuals for the failures of society?

    [/elitist Leftist voice]

    Shannon Love | November 25, 2008, 4:03pm | #

    Murder rates where lower in the 50’s than after the “reforms” of the 60’s. Clearly, bad policy based on academic theories instead of real world experience led to an explosion of crime…

    All right, you two. No biting, no gouging, no hits below the belt, best two-of-three falls.

  42. Clearly, bad policy based on academic theories instead of real world experience led to an explosion of crime that ended only when we returned to more time tested models f crime fighting.

    That was the era of large-scale de-institutionalization of the mentally ill.

  43. Look at it from the economist’s perspective… if people see that individuals are disobeying the law without any noticeable repercussions, then it sends a signal to the populace that the risks and costs associated with committing a crime are relatively low. By that logic, it follows that if one were of need to seek retribution or send notice to someone or some organization, they would have noticeably less disincentive against going outside of the law to do so.

  44. swillfredo,

    The crime rate began tacking up well before the big deinstitutionalization craze of the late 70s and early 80s. I suppose you could attribute the late-80s/early-90s spike to that, but you’d have to ignore crack to do so.

    Personally, I think the rise and fall tracks pretty well with with rise an fall of big slum clearance/urban renewal projects. Read some Jane Jacobs – the disruption and anti-human urban design made an increase in crime inevitable.

  45. My own experience is that the theory is valid. When I was in college I moved into a “border” neighborhood. A block or so west was “gentrified” and a block to the east was a shithole. My block was mixed: my building had been a burned out shell for many years and I was the first new tenant in my unit and fifth new tenant in all (the rent was amazingly cheap for the quality of the place because of the neighborhoood).

    I lived there for 8 years and over that time I saw incidents of drug dealing, fights, car burglaries, etc slowly decline as the block improved. In time most of the bars were off the windows and the place was nice and tidy. yet you could walk 2 blocks and step back the 8 year interval. Amazing.

    To me it was the theory in reverse: the nicer the area became the less comfortable people were in behaving badly.

  46. Courtesy of the IMDB, a list of all the gangs featured in The Warriors‘ script, including gangs that didn’t make it into the final cut.

    The Alleycats
    The Amsterdam All-Stars
    The Baseball Furies
    The Black Hands
    The Blackjacks
    The Big Trains
    The Boppers
    The Boyle Avenue Runners
    The Charlemagnes
    The Colt 45’s
    The Dealers
    The Delaney Rovers
    The Dingos
    The E Street Shufflers
    The Easy Aces
    The Electric Eliminators
    The Eighth Avenue Apaches
    The Fastballs
    The Fifth Street Bombers
    The Filmores
    The Firetasters
    The Five Points
    The Gerrards
    The Gladiators
    The Go Hards
    The Gun Hill Dancers
    The Gramercy Riffs
    The High Hats
    The High Rollers
    The Homeboys
    The Hoplites
    The Howitzers
    The Huks
    The Hurricanes
    The Imps
    The Jesters
    The Jones Street Boys
    The Judas Bunch
    The Jupiters
    The Knockdowns
    The Knuckles
    The Lizzies
    The Locos
    The Magicians
    The Meatpackers
    The Mongols
    The Moonrunners
    The Napoleons
    The Nickel Steaks
    The Nightriders
    The Ninth Avenue Razors
    The Orphans
    The Panzers
    The Phillies
    The Plainsmen
    The Punks
    The Queen’s Bridge Mutilators
    The Real Boys
    The Red Hook Shooters
    The Roadmasters
    The Rogues
    The Romans
    The Runaways
    The Saracens
    The Saratogas
    The Savage Huns
    The Shanghai Sultans
    The Southern Cross
    The Speedwagons
    The Sports
    The Stevedores
    The Stilletos
    The Stonebreakers
    The Terriers
    The Turks
    The Turnbull AC’s
    The Van Cortlandt Rangers
    The Warriors
    The Whispers
    The Xenophones
    The Xylophones
    The Yo-Yo’s
    The Youngbloods
    The Zodiacs
    The Zulus.

  47. Everyone’s grandmother knows that courtesy is contagious. It stands to reason that discourtesy is as well. Simple old folk wisdom.

    I believe that most people have an inherent appreciation and respect for things and places that are aesthetically pleasing. There’s no question that a place can easily deteriorate and snowball out of control if it’s allowed to, as chaos is more natural than order.

    San Francisco is a place that could really stand to learn some of the New York City lessons these days.

  48. The crime rate began tacking up well before the big deinstitutionalization craze of the late 70s and early 80s. I suppose you could attribute the late-80s/early-90s spike to that, but you’d have to ignore crack to do so.

    The first push for deinstitutionalization was in the 1950s. And I am not saying that there is cause and effect, but it is definitely part of the big picture. Crime is far too complex to point at any one indicator. That is what is nice about the theory. It doesn’t go after the latest trendy belief about the cause of crime, just creates a modest deterrence/disincentive.

  49. Agree with squarooticus and joe, the point of broken windows (like jane jacobs’ “eyes on the street”) is to emphasize the importance of socially enforced standards of public behavior. I think it’s pretty common sense. It doesn’t have to be associated with Giuliani Time stuff, though when something gets to Death Wish NYC level, maybe stuff that drastic is more justified.

  50. Wow. I apologize for my earlier snark. Most of the comments have been supportive, and the criticisms of Ron Bailey have been reasoned and measured in tone.

    I’m so used to internet forums being a place for people to scream past each other and refuse to engage in intelligent, reasoned debate … I’m just … it’s so … I love you guys.

  51. During WW2 tanks were driven from point A to point B on a major street near my house. As a 7-8 year old I threw a snowball at a tank. The tank slammed on the brakes, the hatch opened and a head popped out, the driver, a civilian or PFC , ate my ass unmercifully, told me if the war effort was lost I’d be held personally responsible. I never threw another snowball at a military vehicle again. No way, man that’s a helluva burden for a 2nd grader to have to bear. I was happy the day the war was over, I’d been exonerated. Whew !!

  52. “Everyone’s grandmother knows that courtesy is contagious. It stands to reason that discourtesy is as well. Simple old folk wisdom.”

    Grandma was a sap. She gave away her insights for free, instead of holding out for a federal grant.

  53. Clearly, bad policy based on academic theories instead of real world experience led to an explosion of crime that ended only when we returned to more time tested models f crime fighting.

    That was the era of large-scale de-institutionalization of the mentally ill.

    Wait, you mean it was Thomas Szasz’s fault?

    ;^)

    Dedicated to SIV

  54. Also for SIV

    http://www.law.umkc.edu/faculty/projects/ftrials/shipp/lynchingyear.html

    The source table on lynchings.

    Seems that WWII put a big dent in the lynching problem…

    I wonder why.

    Could it have been federal action aimed at reducing the crime?

    Would this be related to the theory under discussion…seems like lynching is the ultimate broken window-type crime.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lynching_in_the_United_States#World_War_II_to_present

  55. Re: drop in lynchings.

    Was it the result of “Strange Fruit,”

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Strange_Fruit

    Did the hit song serve the function of putting a spotlight on the bad behavior, making it stand out like if was happening on a clean street?

  56. NM,

    In a broader sense, the advent of recorded music probably played a big role in improving race relations.

    The fact that the Ink Spots could make the most trite melody seem sublime was probably just as effective as the lyrics to “Strange Fruit”.

  57. So does this mean that if we all see the government stealing massive amounts of money, we’re more likely to steal massive amounts of money?

    Bailout = Broken Window

  58. The are two keys to the studies which seem to me to have been overlooked:
    1. The setting was apparently “unclaimed” property … not even a “commons” … so there was no perceived “infringement” of anyone’s rights;
    2. The “subjects” in several of the studies were actually “victims” of the study, since their property was violated by “ads” and they had no obligation to dispose of the litter.

    Scientists tend to setup scenarios without the least consideration of the real “issues” they arbitrarily introduce … making them invalid from square one.

  59. So does this mean that if we all see the government stealing massive amounts of money, we’re more likely to steal massive amounts of money?

    Why, yes. Yes, it does.

  60. I remember wanting to see The Warriors and not being allowed to (I was fifteen. Parents were crazy strict about TV and movies, paid no attention to books. I read Go Ask Alice at like, nine, The Last Picture Show at eleven and then discovered bad 60s/70s porn at twelve. No one ever suspected a thing. Anyhoo). Remember Hill Street Blues, which came out a few years later? Didn’t they have weird, colorful gangs in big hats? I remember one gang who talked with Irish accents. I thought New York had real gangs like that.

    My favorite gang ever is the Woola Woola Boys, who jump up and down shouting “woola woola!” to distract victims while other gang members do the robbing and fighting and stuff. From Mark Helprin’s Winter’s Tale, which is also my favorite novel about New York.

  61. many of the comments here are a perfect example of how cognitive dissonance works.

    Clearly, many posters here are predisposed to distrust broken windows theory, and enforcement against “petty” offenses.

    Thus, the fact that there is actual evidence is ignored, because it’s uncomfortable and conflicts with people’s biases and preconceptions.

    If same study came to the opposite conclusion, you can rest assured that the same naysayers would be trumpeting such “PROOF” that their biases were correct.

    Seriously. Many posters here sound like a bunch of creationists “refuting” evolution. Evidence be damned, when it doesn’t fit one’s bias.

    “True, but the 1950s crime rates were kept artificially low via statistical dodges like “lynching is legal” and “rape victims know better than to complain about it” and “if a man wants to beat his wife and kids that’s his business.””

    Lynching was exceedingly rare (as has been pointed out). Yes, rape has always been underreported, but more so in the 50’s (otoh, it is also the most overreported crime (false reports) as even alan dershowitz admits). And sure, domestic violence wasn’t taken seriously.

    However, there are plenty of crimes that are well reported and offer nice statistical comparison.

    Murder, burglary, auto theft, and robbery.

    Care to compare the two time frames for these crimes?

  62. ???what are you talking about, dunphy? There is a lot of good, balanced analysis on here.

  63. Hey, that guy’s NAME is RED.

  64. “many of the comments here are a perfect example of how cognitive dissonance works.

    Clearly, many posters here are predisposed to distrust broken windows theory, and enforcement against “petty” offenses.”

    If you missed my point, was that the state has no business in forcing private entities to clean up their own properties. If people want a nice neighborhood it is up to themselves to clean it up, not the government. Otherwise you end up with a massive loss of liberty. Also, you cannot make policy based upon utilitarian arguments with wishy-washy social science (doing X reduces Y by 10%!), based on perceived notions of the “common good”. Otherwise you end up with a totalitarian state. Is that a good enough summary for you?

  65. are you saying there’s something inherently funny in the idea of a gang that wears top hats called the high hats?

    I think he was talking about The Baseball Furies. My suspicion is that “The Band Kiss” might have made the movie unprofitable after litigation, so they used flaiming pinstripes instead of spandex.

  66. I don’t see why studies like this even need to be done, it’s obvious a priori from introspection.

    Unfortunately the causes & effects will depend on which side of social norms behaviors lie on, and by definition we can’t do much individually about social norms.

  67. The Warriors is just West Side Story for straight people.

    I don’t understand why Libertarians go apeshit over broken windows policing. As pointed out above, the evidence is pretty strong for it. If you don’t buy the evidence, go to New York City sometime and try to distrust your lying eyes. They do sound like creationists on this thread.

    Beyond that, the Libertarian bitch is what constitutes a “broken window” not that broken windows need to be repaired. Just because drugs should be legal doesn’t mean it should be okay from people to jump subway fairs, break stuff and piss on the street.

  68. Reminds me of a study that was presented in my HS science club that different payoffs could increase false positives or false negatives in a hearing test. Well, duh!

  69. This is why I disagree with the Reason writers who argue against voting. It’s about much more than just the economic equity of the effort or the puny political power of one vote.

  70. “””My own experience is that the theory is valid. “””

    NYC is a prime example as John said. If a career mugger is in jail for jumping the turnstyle, he’s not on the street to mug. Reducing crime by limiting the access career criminals have to the population.

    Sure we could bitch about arrests for little crimes we think should be a crime, but that a problem with the law.

    I’m not a fan, but if it’s going to be applied to the citzenry and claimed successful, then why not apply it to LEOs? I’m sure a LEO that likes to abuse people, runs through red lights. The more you can put cops in jail for running red lights, the more you protect the citizenry from police abuse.

  71. “””The Warriors is just West Side Story for straight people. “””

    That’s a good one.

  72. This does not confirm broken windows theory. Additionally, broken windows theory as well as Wilson’s “thinking about crime”, are narrow perspectives.

    They don’t have much explanatory value because they tend to reduce crime causation to very simple processes. He takes a “snap shot” of a couple steps the formation of criminal behavior and asserts it as “the answer”.

    Additionally, and most importantly, he is not qualified to be writing on crime. His academic training is not sufficient. Crime is complex and a comprehensive explanation is multifaceted. We don’t do it much, normally we are law abiding in our behaviors. His ideas are dangerously ignorant

  73. the article : nice little piece of conservative-law-and-order trash.

  74. I wouldn’t put too much stock in this study. The sample size for each experiment was never greater than 71. At that size the significance of the study would be questionable.

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