The broken windows theory

Brodie Thomas
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It seems just about every part of the southwest coast has been touched by vandalism this summer.

Maybe it’s the heat. From a burnt picnic table in the Codroy Valley to a fence being destroyed in Rose Blanche, people have been behaving badly and taking it out on public property.

Vandalism is senseless violence. It’s useless to try and make sense of it.

So much of the time, the blame falls to “teenagers” or “youth.” Science tells us the still developing brains of young people have some problems with impulse control. But that’s not an excuse.

At either end of the coast, Rose Blanche and the Codroy Valley, we spoke with people who remarked on how unusual it was for their area. It’s not something they normally see a lot of. That’s probably because they’re both close-knit and well maintained areas where people take pride in their property.

While vandalism seems to happen everywhere from time to time, there is one potential way to combat it. In criminology, it’s known as the broken windows theory. It’s the idea that proptly repairing and maintaining property is one of the best ways to stop all sorts of crimes, great and small, from spreading.

When people see broken windows (or burnt picnic tables, or broken bottles everywhere), it gives the impression that the area is crime-ridden and that there is little enforcement of rules.

In other words, one broken window invites rocks to be thrown at another window in the same building. One broken bottle on a beach invites someone to smash another bottle.

Because - lets face it - there is a certain thrill that comes with breaking the rules now and then.

The best-known example of the broken windows theory being put into action is in New York City during the 1980s. The city took back a dangerous crime-ridden subway by cleaning up graffiti on an almost daily basis, and then cracking down on people caught jumping the tollbooths.

The result was a safer overall subway with fewer muggings and fewer serious crimes. By tackling the small, aesthetic problems, the city cut down on the big expensive problems as well.

In the Codroy Valley, the community is rallying to take back Murray’s Beach the beach where the picnic table was burnt and where so much broken glass currently litters the shoreline.

Talk in the community and on social media is of how this sheltered beach could be a great swimming hole for younger children who cant handle the waves and currents at Searston Beach.

The Codroy Valley Recreation Committee is inviting the general public to come out and help clean up the beach on August 2. Hopefully it sends the intended message to whoever is partying and breaking their bottles there on the weekend.

Organizations: Codroy Valley Recreation Committee

Geographic location: Codroy Valley, Rose Blanche, New York City

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Recent comments

  • Monce C. Abraham
    December 14, 2012 - 13:41

    Interesting article... My views on Broken windows theory based on one hellova harrowing experience, here: p.s.: Still awaiting for the 'windows' to be fixed, and some affirmative action to be taken... Cheers, Monce