Broken Windows

I have a particular beef with the so called “broken windows” theory of policing. In brief it’s the theory that when the rich man abandons or fails maintain his property the police should round up the homeless and throw them in jail.

So I noted this quote: ‘Ali Omer, a young writer in Baghdad, commented, “I discovered the draw-back of democracy, it dirties the walls!”‘ from the Utne Reader

As well as this one from the New York Times (which has a very obnoxious tendency to move their articles inside their walled garden). The “I” in this quote is Frank Gehry, the architect.

I have my own version of the “broken windows” theory of urban decline. It’s called the “cheap glass” hypothesis. Both concepts deal with the power of small causes to produce big effects. The broken-windows theory, which got great play in the Giuliani administration, states that when smashed panes aren’t quickly repaired, it signals neglect and decline. Neighborhoods become targets for burglars, who beget drug dealers, prostitutes, muggers, murderers.

The cheap-glass theory states that when so-called “value engineers” are hired to reduce building costs, mirror glass quickly follows. Mirror glass induces low self-esteem, depression, poor citizen morale, reduced productivity, strained personal relationships and ultimately broken windows of the soul. This is not the way to go.

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