According to this theory, if someone broke the glass in the house and no one installed a new one, soon no windows will be in this house.
In other words, clear signs of non-compliance with the accepted norms of behavior by people provoke others also to forget about the rules. As a result of such a chain reaction, a ‘decent’ urban area can quickly turn into a ghetto where people are scared to go out.
The theory that the disorder spreads like an epidemy, was formulated in 1982 by James Wilson and George Kelling.
Subway, New York. 1980-s (Christopher Morris)
In the mid-1980s the New York subway got a new head. The new director David Gunn started fighting against graffiti. The public wasn’t delighted. But Gunn was insistent:
“Graffiti is a symbol of a system crash. If you start the process of restructuring the organization, the victory over graffiti should be the first. Without winning this battle, no reforms take place. We are ready to buy new trains 10 million Dollars each, but if we do not protect them from vandalism, we know what happens. They will be fine for one day, and then they will be spoiled. “
And Gunn gave the command to clean cars. The route by the route. The composition by the composition. Every single day. “For us, it was like a religious act,” – he told later.
At the end of the routes they installed washing points. If the car came with graffiti, drawings were washed away during turning, otherwise the car was out of use. Dirty cars, from which had not been yet washed away graffiti, under no circumstances weren’t mixed with the clean ones. Gunn sent to vandals clear message.
“We had a depot in Harlem, where the cars were at night – he told. – The first night there were teenagers and stained car walls with white paint. The next night, when the paint had dried, they came and drew contours, and the other night it all was painted. That is, they had been working for 3 nights. We waited them to finish their “work”. Then we took rollers and painted the graffiti over. The boys were upset to tears. This was our message to them: “Do you want to spend another 3 nights to paint the train? Ok, do it. But no one will see your job.”
The second point in the plan was to fight stowaways – it’s also a sign that there is no order in the system. People decided that if someone does not pay, they won’t too, and the problem was growing like a snowball. The head of the transport police was William Bratton.
The policemen put handcuffs on free-riders. They were then escorted to a police bus, searched, fingerprinted and entered in the database. Many of them had weapon. Others had problems with the law.
“For the cops it was a real El Dorado, – said Bratton. – Every arrest was like a bag of popcorn with a surprise. What kind of toy I’ll find now? A gun? Knife? .. After that the bad guys became smarter, began to leave the guns at home and payed the fare.”
Dutch researchers made experiments that have shown that people often violate the accepted norms of behavior when they see that others do so. The “bad example” is interpreted broadly, people allow themselves to violate other rules, and a sense of impunity sends a “signal” calling for more dangerous crimes.
If a window in a building is broken, it must be quickly replaced. If there’s trash on the sidewalk or alley, it must be got out, before people start throwing out old furniture or radioactive waste on the road.
The violation of social norms can grow like a snowball, and it’s necessary to fight with its first manifestations. Antisocial behavior can quickly become familiar to many people, and then the system will support itself. Each of us must keep in mind: throwing on a lawn a can of soda or writihg on the wall a dirty word, we contribute to an increase of crime and universal swinishness.