Op Ed: Broken Windows theory revisited
By Brendan Kolding
In 1982, Harvard social scientists James Q. Wilson and George L. Kelling introduced the broken windows theory. “Social psychologists and police officers tend to agree that if a window in a building is broken and is left unrepaired, all the rest of the windows will soon be broken…one un-repaired broken window is a signal that no one cares, and so breaking more windows costs nothing,” they wrote. Dealing with seemingly minor problems prevents them from turning into more significant issues and communicates the social norms and expectations of the community. Quickly replacing a broken window sends a message that the community does not tolerate vandalism and other forms of lawlessness, whereas neglecting the window invites escalated mischief.
In the field of public administration, advocates for the broken windows theory are generally split into three camps: police intervention, community intervention, and a hybrid model. City governments up and down the west coast have long adhered to permissive social policies that essentially amount to non-intervention, and the result is the current sad state of tent encampments, open-air drug trafficking, and “autonomous zones.” The country-wide movement to defund law enforcement is accompanied by a vague pledge to have non-police resources respond to calls for service. Councilmember Lisa Herbold, a staunch supporter of the movement to defund the police, has recently introduced legislation that would effectively de-criminalize most misdemeanor offenses committed by those who claim to be indigent or to have a behavioral health disorder. It would therefore appear that Herbold’s theory on broken windows is that it is best to just let them remain broken and criticize those who argue that glass shards present a danger to the community.
However, when a loud noise in her West Seattle home turned out to be the result of a rock striking (but apparently not breaking) a window, Herbold’s response was to call the police. Officers responded and interviewed a neighbor who provided a description of a suspect who had already left the area. I believe that Herbold’s interest was to document the incident in the hope that the suspect will eventually be identified, arrested, and prosecuted for the threat that his actions presented to her home and family. I do not blame her one bit for that; I would have done precisely the same thing. However, this instant appeal to the police intervention strategy directly counters her recent policy positions. One would think that if she truly believed that non-police resources would ever be appropriate to dispatch to a call for service, it would be in a situation where no one got hurt, nothing was stolen, there was little to no property damage, and the suspect had left the scene. If the suspect in her case can claim indigency or a behavioral health dis-order then she appears fine with allowing him to evade prosecution anyway.
When it comes to her home and her neighborhood, Herbold clearly sees the deficiencies of her activist agenda. If it is acceptable to throw a rock at a window, then it must be OK to throw another rock hard enough to break the window. If it is OK to break a window on a house, then it should be fine to burglarize that house and the rest of the homes in the neighborhood. Wilson and Kelly would argue that the way to preempt the burglary spree would be to deal with the rock thrower right away, and Herbold seems to agree. Of course, that requires sufficient police resources and a legal system that holds people accountable. Herbold needs to realize that her constituents desire and deserve the same sense of physical security that she does.
Like there is anyone but police to call. That’s precicely the point of reallocating budget to other agencies. So that 911 in exactly this circumstance does not dispatch a badge and a gun. Once again Kolding misses the entire topic of discussion. Pure numpty.
Who do you think she would have preferred to be available for 911 to dispatch?
So someone throws a rock into the window of an elected political official and who should we dispatch? The cops or a team of therapists and social workers? Seems like an act of political and intimidation to me. Hate crime. When we implement this re-imaging of intervention via unarmed civiil servants we are going to see a lot of dead and wounded civll servants - particularly in domestic disputes.