Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Broken Window


Lately I've been thinking about the Broken Window Theory.  The basics of it go like this:
Consider a building with a few broken windows. If the windows are not repaired, the tendency is for vandals to break a few more windows. Eventually, they may even break into the building, and if it's unoccupied, perhaps become squatters or light fires inside.
Or consider a sidewalk. Some litter accumulates. Soon, more litter accumulates. Eventually, people even start leaving bags of trash from take-out restaurants there or breaking into cars.
The thought is that if police, community workers, business owners, and residents spend time keeping a community cleaned and repaired then larger crimes has a smaller chance of being committed.   This article from Boston.com makes the case that people were less likely to throw flyers on the ground on a "clean" side of a building than on the "dirty" side. 

I started thinking about this a bit more in the spring mainly because a winter of trash and garbage has accumulated in snow banks and gutters.  You drive through the less desirable parts of town and it looks like a garbage trunk just opened up and dumped a weeks worth of trash on the side of the street.  And so you start to wonder:  Would it really make any difference if some organization would take time to clean up the garbage in Milwaukee?  I'd be very curious to find out.  Aesthetically speaking I think it would really help some of the areas along Capitol Dr and Silver Spring Dr if someone took the time to clean up the litter along the road.  I've been looking into different Organizations to volunteer for, maybe one that helps clean up some neighborhoods would be a good one to look into.


Ric said...

It's kind of like before you decide to clean your house, or your car. As the garbage and mess accumlates, you're more apt to throw more garbage on the floor, or leave more magazines sitting around, or have more dirty dishes pile up in the sink. Pretty soon, all of that garbage adds up -- it's a snowball effect.

But when you clean it all up, you try harder to not get it dirty.

Gregor said...

Great example.

And it's possible that trash bugs me more than most because of spending two years picking up garbage on campus. It'll tend to drive anyone a little crazy.