CHANGING MY MIND: BROKEN WINDOWS. For years, when I lived in New York, I was impatient with efforts by the city to stop graffiti. It seemed to me self-evident that police efforts should give priority to major crimes. There were lots of major crimes. James Q. Wilson and others put forth the theory in the early eighties that crime is frequent in neighborhoods with disorder and lots of petty violations of the law. I was skeptical. When Rudy Giuliani was elected mayor of New York and made clear that he was going to enforce strictly laws against petty crimes –to crack down on “squeegee men”—I considered that this would be a good test of the Broken Window Theory. Low and behold, there was a remarkable drop in major crimes. My subjective belief in the Broken Window Theory had been about 5%. After what happened in New York, I would have put my subjective belief in the Broken Window Theory at maybe 70%. The theory is still highly controversial. This wikipedia article describes the alternative explanations that have been given for the drop in crime in New York.

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