STEP #2:  Implement Broken Windows Policing

(Calie Stephens, 12/23/03) When raising a child, if at an early age you do not discipline that child when he misbehaves and teach the child that antisocial behavior will not be accepted..... you will raise a troubled and antisocial adult.  You are not doing the child a favor by allowing him to practice antisocial behavior without consequences.  This concept works on many levels.

If in a neighborhood citizens are allowed to practice antisocial behavior such as panhandling, writing graffitti on walls, urinating in public, playing loud music, throwing trash on the street, selling drugs, prostitution, etc. without consequences.....pretty soon that neighborhood will deteriorate.  Good citizens will move, property values will decline and the neighborhood will  become blighted.  Soon the blighted neighborhood turns into a blighted city.  This is what has happened to Dallas.

Broken windows policing accepts the theory that when antisocial behavior is not confronted, it leads to misdemeanor crimes which eventually turn into more serious crimes.  If, however, antisocial behavior is confronted and punished......misdemeanor crimes and more serious felonies decrease.

The unprecendented success of New York City in reducing crime by over 70% in the last decade is a direct result of adopting broken windows policing.  New York City went from the major city with the highest crime in the nation to the major city with the lowest crime in the nation.....all in less than a decade.  Broken windows is the key to that reversal.

When Rudolph Guiliani became Mayor of New York City in 1994, he inherited a deficit of 2.3 billion dollars and a homicide rate of 2600 murders per year.  In spite of the deficit, he raised taxes and hired 30% more police.   He then implemented broken windows policing.  Every year that he was Mayor, crime in every category declined.  At the end of his second term in 2001, he left the city with a surplus of 1 billion dollars and a homicide rate of 600 murders per year.  Crime in all categories went down over 65%.

At the beginning of this article, I stated that confronting and punishing antisocial behavior works on many levels.  I proved this to myself at my condomium complex.

I moved into my new condo on Holly Hill Drive in 1979 and was the first resident in the small 22 unit complex located between Walnut Hill and Park Lane, east of Greenville Avenue.  The neighborhood was vibrant with new apartments, townhomes and condos inhabited by young professionals.  The property value in the early 1980's was over $100 per square foot.

At the end of the 1980's, Dallas went thru a severe recession and many owners lost their properties to foreclosure.  Investors purchased the properties for a fraction of their original value and rented to anyone and everyone.  As the property values fell, the crime increased.  Drug dealers and prostitutes began walking the streets.  Several drug dealers were living on our property, leasing their unit from an investor who could care less.  The property value dropped from $100 per square foot to $30 per square foot.  The Vickery area where I live posted the highest crime rates in the city. 

The drug dealers and prostitutes began doing their business in our parking lot.  Every morning, used condoms and drug needles were found on the ground.  A call to the police was futile.  If the police responded, it was hours later.....well after the drug dealer or the prostitute had done their business.

Since the police would not help us, we decided to spend $28,000 to construct an eight foot high access gate to keep the undesirables off the property.  The only way into and out was thru that gate and the gate could only be opened and closed with a remote control that the residents carried on their keychain.

After the gate was completed, the association board decided that we would try "broken windows" on the property.  We issued two pages of "rules & regulations" outling unacceptable behavior that would not be tolerated.  The "rules & regulations" included a procedure where the first violation would result in a letter to the owner.  The second and subsequent violations included a $50 fine.  After issuing several fines, the antisocial behavior changed.  The attitudes of the residents also changed.  Pretty soon, residents started picking up trash, reporting any suspicious happenings and spending money to update and improve their units.  Residents no longer accept antisocial behavior by their neighbors.

Broken windows works at all levels.  It works with a single works at a condo works in a works in a city. 

Broken windows worked in New York City and it can work in Dallas.  Unfortunately, I fear that our mayor and city council do not understand this.


Calie Stephens - Editor

COMING SOON:  Step #3 - Hold Mayor, City Council and Police Chief Accountable for Reduction in Crime