One of the main functions of any government is to provide security to its citizens. In most US states, security dockets are among the most well financed departments. However, the large security budgetary allocations have not translated into safety. Most theories suggested by security experts have failed to work in practical situations. In this regard, this paper discusses the theory of broken windows in New Jersey in comparison to the Giuliani’s crime approach in Mexico City.
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The broken windows theory was developed in 1970s to bring sanity in New Jersey cities (Kelling & Wilson 1). The theory required police officers to use foot patrol to provide security instead of patrol cars. It was believed that foot patrol was more efficient in reducing crimes than car patrol.
On the other hand, Giulian plan was designed to eliminate criminal activities in Mexico City (Tayler 1). The plan’s philosophy was “zero tolerance to crime”.
Broken Windows Theory
Foot patrol program was introduced to curb the increasing crime rates in 28 New Jersey cities. Security chiefs believed that car patrol reduces contact between police officers and the people they served. In the foot patrol plan, police officers were to be distributed in towns and assigned smaller areas that could be covered on foot. Police presence was expected to dissuade potential criminals from engaging in criminal activities. However, assessment of the foot patrol program five years after implementation indicated that it did not reduce criminal activities. In fact, some areas recorded higher crime rates than before the implementation of the program. Therefore, the foot patrol program did not enhance safety as anticipated. However, because disorderly people disappeared after the implementation, most residents felt safer and, consequently, became careless. Some people exposed themselves to hiding criminals who took advantage of their ignorance (Kelling & Wilson 3).
Even in the absence of criminal activities, presence of disorderly individuals intimidates some people (Kelling & Wilson 5). For instance, people fear drunkards because of their association with violence. Old people feel threatened whenever they encounter large groups of youths. In this regard, police foot patrol program was effective in reducing the number of disorderly people in the neighbourhood. After the disappearance of crime suspects, residents did not have any reason to continue living in fear. It later emerged that although order prevailed, the initial objective of enhancing safety was not realized.
These findings suggest that people associate certain behaviours with criminal activities. The residents’ assumption could have been right because idle youths are likely to engage in crime. However, they were wrong to imagine that criminal activities would stop because idle youths were no longer in sight. Police presence only intimidated the youths into hiding but did not dissuade them from engaging in criminal activities.
The foot patrol program relied on human psychology (Kelling & Wilson 6). According to Kelling and Wilson (7), the window breaking theory states that if a house has one broken window, the remaining windows are likely to get broken within a very short time. In criminology, this theory is translated to mean that people are likely to engage in criminal activities if they are convinced that no one minds it. In this case, the presence of foot patrol police officers is an indication that criminals cannot be entertained. People are likely to stay away from delinquent behaviours when they see order everywhere. According to this theory, individuals can be induced to engage in criminal activities without knowing. For instance, if youths are allowed to idle in town, they can eventually graduate into hard-core criminals without knowing. Although this assertion could be right, it could also be wrong. The fact that youths are not idling in public does not mean they are not idling. They could be meeting somewhere behind the scenes (Kelling & Wilson 7-9).
The window breaking approach was friendly to both the residents and the disorderly people. There are other approaches that are very unfriendly in dealing with potential criminals. Giulian plan is one of the rough approaches.
Giuliani’s Anti-Crime Plan
Giulian plan was introduced at the time when Mexico City was experiencing all sorts of criminal activities ranging from prostitution to homicide (Tayler 3). Unlike the window breaking theory in which police presence was used to maintain order, Giulian plan embraced actual incarceration and punishment of crime suspects. In addition to facilitating arrest of minor offenders, the plan also increased fines and jail terms for anyone found guilty. Most of the arrested young people ended up in jail because they could not afford to pay fines. Giulian plan – like the window breaking theory in New Jersey – did not reduce crime rates. In fact, major crimes such as kidnapping and homicide increased. The city became less safe than ever before (Tayler 5).
Like the window breaking approach in New Jersey, Giulian plan brought some order in Mexico City. The plan eliminated street vendors, child beggars and squeegee men from streets through arrests and imprisonment. Giulian believed that hard-core criminals start with minor offenses. In this regard, his plan was designed to intercept delinquent behaviours before they escalate into hard-core criminal behaviours. Unfortunately, minor offenders went back to their delinquent behaviours after release from prison. Some scholars have claimed that forcing street vendors out of town may have contributed to increase in major crimes (Tayler 6). Most young people easily turn to crime when they run out of options.
The Giulian plan – like the window breaking approach – employed some aspect of psychology. In this case, Giulian believed that criminals are less likely to move to a clean town. According to Giulian, cleanliness is used to indicate that some activities are not acceptable. This assertion was wrong just like in the window breaking theory. Criminals can be willing to camouflage and fit in a decent society because such societies are less likely to suspect them.
The strategies of increasing police presence and zero crime tolerance have been employed in several other cities. In 2011, police and FBI agencies were flooded in New York and Newburgh cities to fight crime (Keefe 1). Several youths were arrested and charged. The problem was not solved because criminal activities doubled in the outskirts after reducing in the city centre (Keefe 3). These findings suggest that use of force and intimidation cannot end crime. Governments should address issues such as unemployment and poverty that force young people to engage in criminal activities.
The most conspicuous similarity between the window breaking approach in New Jersey and the Giulian plan in Mexico City is that both relied on unjustified assumptions and ended up failing. Both approaches embraced reactive rather than proactive interventions. In this regard, forcing youths out of town without giving them alternative means to earn a living only converts them into hard-core criminals.
Keefe, Patrick. “Welcome to Newburgh, Murder Capital of New York”. New York Magazine. NYMag.com. 2011. Web.
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Kelling, George & James Wilson. “Broken Windows: The Police and Neighbourhood Safety”. The Atlantic. TheAtlantic.com. 1982. Web.
Tayler, Letta. “Giuliani’s Crime Plan for Mexico City a Work in Progress”. The Seattle times. Seattletimes.com. 2004. Web.