Broken windows/collective efficacy: Baltimore; Newark; Grand Junction, Colorado; Pittsburgh; Albany
EE called our attention to the cover story on Baltimore, published two Sundays ago in the New York Times Magazine, "The Tragedy of Baltimore."
Where I lived was a few blocks from Union Station and a bit more than one mile to the US Capitol and to Downtown, but by happenstance, it was also just a few blocks away from one of the city's primary open air drug markets, and in an 18-month period, there were 30 murders.
It was living under siege.
Interesting, the article ascribes the riots, and even the death of Freddie Gray, to a number of poor decisions and choices by the police department, the State's Attorney's Office (who in advance of the arrest of Freddie Gray, asked the department to increase patrols in the Sandtown-Winchester neighborhood), under trained police officers and the failure of the State of Maryland to provide the police department with back up officers in the period of unrest after Gray's death and before the onset of riots a few days later.
Broken windows versus collective efficacy theory. My primary response to the article concerned how in the past I had scorned collective efficacy theory (ironically, one of the leaders in this school is Robert Sampson, who is speaking next week at American University) in favor of "broken windows theory" and how I had been wrong and missed the point.
I believe in the concept of broken windows theory, which is that by addressing disorder -- vacant houses, crime spots, litter, abandoned cars, etc. -- communities end up being better able to manage and reduce crime.
-- "The state of "broken windows" versus "problem oriented policing" strategies in 2016: Part 1, theory and practice," 2016
-- "The state of "broken windows" versus "problem oriented policing" strategies in 2016: Part 2, what to do"
-- "Night-time safety: rethinking lighting in the context of a walking community," 2014
-- Crime prevention through environmental design and repeated burglaries at the Naylor Gardens apartment complex," 2013
The thing about the original theory is that it was also about investing in the community, but for the most part, police departments abandoned that element of the approach, and focused on what came to be called "zero tolerance policing," and the arrest of people at the merest provocation -- not having a fastened seatbelt, a broken tail light -- including rampant "stop and frisk."
The basic idea behind collective efficacy is that communities that are more organized and active, despite income and other demographics, are supposed to be better at warding off crime and disorder, without necessarily more policing, and even in low income areas.
To me, the data on this is mixed.
Which is why I was, I hate to say, derisive ("Urban Health, Nasty Cities, Broken Windows, and Community Efficacy," 2008).
But I missed the point.
Not either/or but and/and. One of the factors acknowledged by Professor Patrick Sharkey's book discussing the decline of crime in major cities is collective efficacy ("NYU professor's book traces the decline of crime in U.S. cities since the '70s," New York Daily News).
Instead, I should have been considering the fact that how bad things could be, that the neighborhoods and community organizations were functioning at all was a miracle.
This is especially true for low income neighborhoods, which for a variety of reasons, have fewer resources, fewer functioning community organizations, and less of a sense of collective trust. Also a lot more direct experience with all kinds of trauma.
The real point is that neighborhoods under siege need even more investments in community organizations, neighborhood improvement, and the like.
Likely collective efficacy surveys would find more positive results commensurate with increased investment in social infrastructure.
Newark. Yesterday's NYT has an article ("'Newark's Original Sin' and the Criminal Justice Education of Cory Booker") on Presidential hopeful Cory Booker, now a Senator from New Jersey and formerly the Mayor of Newark. Much of the article discusses his record on addressing crime.
While the city was successful at reducing crime and the murder rate, it was more focused on a zero tolerance policing strategy, although it was called "broken windows," and eventually the city submitted to a consent decree with the US Department of Justice over overzealous execution of policing to the point where people's civil rights were frequently violated.
Broken Windows and Collective Efficacy Theories need to marry. Again, I believe that Broken Windows theory has been transmogrified from its origins. Had it been paired more overtly with collective efficacy theory as a way to implement the community investment side of the equation, it would have worked better and generated less opprobrium.
Granted, police departments aren't always the best agency out there to implement community investment programs. But there are exceptions:
-- "Los Angeles police department "Community Safety Partnership"," 2014
Grand Junction, Colorado. The Grand Junction Sentinel has a great article ("We got our neighborhood back: Targeted areas see a drop in crime") about a targeted crime reduction effort in Mesa County.
The program focuses on places of frequent incidence of crime, and in addition to arrests provides and coordinates the provision of other resources in a Broken Windows fashion to make the changes permanent.
Pittsburgh and Albany. Other articles on the East Liberty neighborhood in Pittsburgh ("How community-led renovation is helping a rundown Pittsburgh neighbourhood fight crime," Guardian), and the difficulty of making new investments in weak market neighborhoods ("In Albany, struggling neighborhoods face uphill battle to improve: Local couple faced many hurdles trying to build in low property value area," Albany Times-Union) provide other insights into the advantages of such approaches, but also demonstrate the difficulty of making new private sector investments in such communities, because the cost of new construction exceeds the value of existing properties.