The Broken Window Theory with the Mayor of New York

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Rudolph Giuliani: Well, I very much subscribe to the "Broken Windows" theory, a theory that was developed by Professors Wilson and Kelling, 25 years ago maybe. The idea of it is that you had to pay attention to small things, otherwise they would get out of control and become much worse. And that, in fact, in a lot of our approach to crime, quality of life, social programs, we were allowing small things to get worse rather than dealing with them at the earliest possible stage. That approach had been tried in other cities, but all small cities, and there was a big debate about whether it could work in a city as large as New York. One of the ways that New York used to resist any kind of change was to say, "It can't work here," because they wanted to keep the status quo. There is such a desire for people to do that, to keep the status quo. And I thought, "Well, there's no reason why it can't work in New York City. We have bigger resources. We may have bigger problems, we have bigger resources, the same theory should work." So we started paying attention to the things that were being ignored. Aggressive panhandling, the squeegee operators that would come up to your car and wash the window of your car whether you wanted it or not -- and sometimes smashed people's cars or tires or windows -- the street-level drug-dealing; the prostitution; the graffiti, all these things that were deteriorating the city. So we said, "We're going to pay attention to that," and it worked. It worked because we not only got a big reduction in that, and an improvement in the quality of life, but massive reductions in homicide, and New York City turned from the crime capital of America to the safest large city in the country for five, six years in a row