The Rise and Fall of Crime with your Kids

by Christopher Roy

During the 1980s, New York City was notorious for crime, with over 2,000 murders and 600,000 serious felonies a year, most of it committed by kids. The graffiti-covered subway stations and train cars are what people remember about that time of dark, rampant illegal activities.

The crime rate did not gradually decline over time from underground culture evolution or law enforcement enacting new security measures. It plummeted. Abruptly. Over a few short years tens of thousands of kids stopped committing crimes.Why?

The Broken Windows theory.

When kids live in a neighborhood where there are windows that have been broken for a long time, they get the sense that nobody cares. No one is around to take charge and order the windows fixed. Before long more windows are broken, and the vandalism spreads across the neighborhood to include other crimes, becoming more serious by the day.

This theory that claims that crime is the inevitable result of disorder was devised by criminologists James Q Wilson and George Kelling, and was the philosophy used by New York City authorities to put an end to the crime wave. Resources that for decades were used to enforce serious crimes were used to enforce small crimes, and the New York Transit Authority implemented a graffiti cleanup program that lasted six years, reclaiming train cars with new paint every time they were vandalized.

By 1990 it was done, and today’s authorities continue to keep crime down with the same theory.You don’t need to be a city authority to use the Broken Windows theory. You don’t need to launch an anti-crime program in your neighborhood to save all the kids.

Apply this to your home. Apply this to your kids. Fix your windows. Paint your home. Keep your yard clean. Make the kids do it! And, as often as you can, when you see a broken window, explain to your kid what it means. Show them that people do care.

***Reference: The Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell